The guidance was issued by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), part of the Indian Council of Medical Research, which asked bakery manufacturers to look at ingredients like zero trans fat and high fibre.
Under the guidance, NIN also asked manufacturers to use micronutrient fortification to replace calorie-dense, high glycemic and relatively low-nutrient value products such as bread, biscuits, cake, muffins, buns, and pizza.
NIN director B Sesikeran said in the guidance that with bakery products, there exists apprehension with consumers given the decreased physical activity and modern lifestyles amongst modern Indians.
“They think of them as calorie-dense products…there is need for research and development for novel and healthier bakery products relevant to the diverse needs of the country,” he said.
According to Sesikeran, the average Indian consumer is increasingly concerned health and wellness issues and understands the relation between nutritious food and optimal health.
The guidance further elaborated that given that light functional, natural organic products are seeing more uptake with Indian consumers, NIN will focus research on role of different macro and micronutrients.
“There is need to develop low-cost but healthy bakery products using locally available nutritious ingredients such as millets, full bran wheat, honey and greens. Once such products are standardised then the technology can be traversed to small bakery entrepreneurs in the rural and urban areas,” the guidance stated.
However, it is prudent to note that this is just guidance from NIN, and it does not hold any regulatory value within the Indian food manufacturing sector. For this guidance to hold ground level value, regulations would have to be changed by the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI).
But that is easier said than done, as pointed out by Ramesh Mago, president of the All India Bread Manufacturers Association, who said at a recent trade show that the Indian bakery sector moves slowly.
Mago said that even as Indian consumption of bread has increased in line with the population, so have consumer expectations with regards to hygiene, quality, and safety.
To reach those expectations, bread makers have to use new technology and ingredients, most of which Indian regulations disallow, while others are not cost feasible, he said.
“In the last 15 years, the Indian government has not allowed the use of any new ingredients in bread products,” said Mago, who also heads Kitty Industries.