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The Milky Way to Growth

Source: The Business Standard, New Delhi and Kolkata, India, December 17, 2002

Desi milk-based products lead the way to a new dairy revolution, says Surinder Sud

The white revolution has already made India the world leader in milk production. Its second phase is poised to transform the country into a global giant in the output of dairy products. This transformation will come about through the industrial production of desi milk-based products, including the vast range of mithais for which huge unmet demand exists.

What will trigger this revolution is the application of modern mass manufacturing technology to indigenous products that have hitherto been prepared and marketed largely by the halwais in the unorganised sector.
Industrial-scale production, scientific packaging and modern marketing can unleash a tremendous amount of value addition - up to 200 per cent - in these products to make commercial sense for the organised sector to step in.

The market for mass-produced and packaged indigenous milk-based products is expanding fast at both the domestic and global level. Even today, the domestic market of ethnic milk products is estimated at Rs 5,000 crore.

Many of the mass consumed products have already been commercialised by the organised sector. These include flavoured milks, dahi, paneer, buttermilk, lassi, gulabjamun, shrikhand and kheer. With rising income levels and the growing size of the middle and upper-middle class in urban and semi-urban centres, this market is bound to grow rapidly.

Regarding the overseas demand for Indian milk products and sweets, surveys indicate that North America alone may be able to absorb these items worth $ 500 million. The mainstay of this market will, of course, be the Indian diaspora of around 20 million, over half of them living in the West. Besides, there is potential also to popularise these products among local consumers abroad.

The optimism on this front emanates from the interest entrepreneurs in Europe, North America and Australia are showing in manufacturing the Indian products. One such unit has already been set up in Canada by IDP Foods Inc in the cooperative sector. This unit is essentially a replica of India's Vadodara-based Sugam Dairy which pioneered the industrial production of indigenous dairy products with assistance from the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Several other Indian companies have ventured into the commercial production and marketing of mithais under brands like Haldiram, Bikanervala, K C Das, Ganguram, Chitales, Brijwasi, Bikaji, Chandu, Ghasitaram, Ghantewala and the like. The fact that most of these products have been received well will encourage more investment in this sector.

The diversity in Indian dairy products is relatively greater, offering the consumers as well as the manufacturing industry a wider choice. As pointed out by noted dairyman V Kurien, the range of Western milk products consists largely of variants of cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, sweetened condensed milk, butter and butter oil. India has purely desi parallels to each of these in the form of paneer, dahi, kulfi, rabri, makhan and ghee. What lends a distinct market edge to India is the variety of milk-based mithais, the range of which is difficult to fathom.

what has been impeding the progress in this field so far was the lack of technical and commercial information for the prospective entrepreneurs. They did not know where and what kind of processing technology was available for each of these products. The information about the suppliers of the processing equipment and other basic details was also wanting. This gap has now been bridged with the release of a comprehensive compendium of all such information and know-how.

Titled "Technology of Indian Milk Products", this practical guide for prospective entrepreneurs has been brought out by the Dairy India Publications, the publishers of the popular "Dairy India Yearbooks". This publication contains market surveys and statistics, processing principles, technology for industrial production and packaging, nutrition and health and other vital aspects of this field. It can guide the investors in production planning and implementation, giving them process flow-charts and engineering layout designs.

Many of the operations used in the manufacture of Western food products can be adapted for the industrial manufacture of desi products, this handbook reveals. For instance, meatball-portioning machines and doughnut fryers can be used for making gulabjamun; Japanese pastry-making machines can be deployed to make burfi and other similar products; and khoa can be prepared by using roller driers and scraped-surface heat exchangers used in the manufacture of many Western products.

Though the public sector dairy institutes are already working on the technology of the native milk products, a new private sector research and development initiative has been mooted to cater exclusively to this emerging industry. This centre can patent the processes, equipment and product formulations and charge royalties on their use by the industry to be financially self-sustaining.

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 Ethnic Food Wave
Traditional dairy products are becoming increasingly important with the globalization of the ethnic food wave and the presence of some 20 million people of Indian origin around the world.
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