Ancient grains, new formats: Nestle India puts millets at the centre of new product innovation efforts

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Nestle India has launched a variety of new products focused on millets as a key ingredient this year. ©Getty Images
Nestle India has launched a variety of new products focused on millets as a key ingredient this year. ©Getty Images

Related tags Nestlé India millets

Nestle India has launched a variety of new products focused on millets as a key ingredient this year, in an effort to increase consumer acceptance and awareness via familiar product formats while also aligning with the Indian government’s International Year of Millets’ campaign.

The firm’s local R&D centre has partnered with the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) to work on improving the millet supply chain as well as in terms of innovation.

As of November 2023, Nestle India has launched several new millet-based product innovation ranges from the porridge to instant noodle categories, incorporating these into well-known brands such as Koko Krunch and MAGGI.

““Millets are associated with India’s agricultural heritage and with 2023 identified as the International Year of Millets, it is only appropriate that this is brought to the forefront with more suitable product [innovations],”​ Nestle India Managing Director Suresh Narayanan told us.

“Our ambition is to incorporate millets into more relevant product categories – [we have] a lot of work done here in the breakfast category including Nestlé CEREGROW Grain Selection with ragi, Milo Cocoa Malt with bajra and Nestlé Koko Krunch Millet-Jowar breakfast cereals.”

Ragi, bajra and jowar are all different variants of millet grains.

Two of the most recent millet innovations are in categories very familiar to Indian consumers, namely porridge and instant noodles.

“Maggi noodles are consumed by nearly two-thirds of Indian households, [and we are confident that this brand can] contribute positively to make millets mainstream in India,”​ Nestle India Director - Foods Business Rajat Jain said.

“This new offering falls under the Maggi Oats Noodles with Millet Magic range, which is a Maggi Oats Noodles sub-brand – it contains a combination of two millets, namely sorghum (jowar) and finger millet (ragi) as well as oats, which utilises the flavours of masala to elevate enjoyment.

“This combination of oats with Indian Millets also offers consumers a product which is a source of fibre and protein, and is in line with Maggi’s commitment to provide consumers with diverse options by recalibrating innovations.”

The new porridge products under the Nestle a+ Masala Millet brand on the other hand contain pearl millet (bajra), and comes in tomato and masala flavours. All products in this range will carry an IIMR endorsement logo on-pack.

“The a+ Masala millet porridges are tailored to local nutritional needs and tastes [as they are] made with a blend of locally sourced ingredients including bajra, barley, vegetables, and a variety of 10 spices,”​ Nestle India R&D Centre Head Jagdeep Marahar told us.

“These are also high in fibre, free of preservatives, and contain 30% fewer calories compared to commonly consumed cereal-based breakfast recipes.”

Maggi Oats Noodles with Millet Magic is priced at INR175 for a pack of four servings; whereas the a+ Masala Millet is priced at INR175 (US$2.10) for a multi-serve 240g pack or INR30 (US$0.36) for a single-serve 40g pack.

Both ranges will be available in major stores across the country.

Entrepreneur hunt

Nestle also revealed that the search is on for start-ups to partner with in terms of using millets in more product formats.

“We are exploring innovation opportunities with start-ups, while partnering with local research institutions to encourage the utilisation of millets in different types of food and beverage products," ​Marahar added.

“The a+ Masala millet porridges for example were initially developed [at] our R+D Accelerator which acts as a regional platform for students, start-ups, and employees to go from idea to shop test in only a few months through leveraging Nestlé's extensive food and beverage innovation expertise and infrastructure.”

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