Bewust Foods was founded by a group of Nutritionists, is a startup recognized by Government of Rajasthan (i start), India. It is also selected as one of incubatee of National Institute of Agricultural Marketing. Here’s an interview with Tanu Shree Singh, research enthusiast, dietician and also cofounder of Bewust foods. She speaks to IMoT Agri Forum about challenges in Millet Processing, women entrepreneurship and agribusiness.
What’s the reason behind the name, Bewust Foods ?
During our student and then professional practising years, we were always curious about food labels, be it for our consumption or for recommending it to our clients. But most labels we came across had hidden, incomplete or sometimes manipulative information, like a cookie pack having a big label as “goodness of oats” would actually contain a meagre amount of real oats, similarly with zero transfat or whole wheat etc. So when we decided to begin our entrepreneurial journey we wanted it to be a very informative & transparent brand. Eating right or wrong is completely an individual’s choice, but she certainly needs to know what exactly she is consuming out of a packet, therefore “Bewust” in Dutch it means Conscious.
People are slowly switching to millets and millets based products now a days. As a nutritionist can you elaborate why we should go back to millets ?
Historically our ancestors were consuming millets in their daily diet, they never believed in consuming just one or two variety of cereals in a whole year. Since gluten showed diverse and easier applications in food processing industry with products like pasta, noodles, biscuits, khari, rusks, bun, bread, we started becoming obsessed with refined wheat, green revolution further decreased the cropping of millets.
Regular consumption of millet would minus the need for multivitamin pills. Most millets contain a good amount of dietary fibre, B vitamins, potassium, iron and calcium, millets provide 3-5 times more protein than wheat or rice. Many research evidence available how millets reduce the risk of heart disease, control blood sugar, blood pressure, improves digestion, immunity and overall health.
The challenge in millets is post harvest Processing and value addition. How your start-up is creating disruption there ?
It took a lot of trials and research to bring the kind of products we have today, like a prebiotic sorghum cookie which is very good for diabetics or a dark chocolate Bajra brownie for children. As most millets are unstable when turned into flour, develop an odd flavour if not taken care of, we are, therefore, very specific about milling & processing protocols of these millets. The correct amalgamation of food technology and bakery science principles helped us in bringing these delicious products having a good shelf life without a load of harmful chemicals.
As an entrepreneur, how do you welcome women entrepreneurs in the fields of Processing, Nutrition and Agriculture ? How’s the ecosystem?
I think overall women entrepreneurial ecosystem is in a nascent stage, which allows us to build a system of our own, like making it less gender skewed and more gender-neutral. Though all new systems take time in appropriation and standardization, newer brains will make this better and interesting for all of us, thus, we need more women from all the sectors. Just like ola need a google or paytm, startups in food tech, agri tech, nutrition science, health sectors needs each other to grow.
Most of the startup like yours, had to deal directly with farmers (without middlemen) to be successful. How do you handle that ?
We began Bewust as we always wanted to add value in our society not just merely earning money, so we knew from the beginning that we are going to purchase our raw material like millets directly from the Farmer. Sometimes communication becomes a barrier but things are way better now due to internet penetration and better governance. Also, many startups in the agricultural sector have come up making it easier for people like us dealing in postharvest and food tech.
Besides value addition, what are the other integrated approaches by which millet consumption could be increased in population?
The awareness I think is the best bet in this case. Though there is plenty of nutrition and diet-related information available on the internet, most of which is just noise.
We should discuss more evidence-based correct information and talk about issues like: Season cycle- why it is important to keep changing our daily cereals Why refined flour is toxic and should not be consumed at all.
Easy accessibility and availability of different millet flour at departmental stores, e-commerce and kirana stores will also boost its consumption.
Millet based easy recipes should be published in newspapers and famous FB/Insta channels so that people can easily adopt millets in their daily diet.
As Interviewed by M Ramsundar IFS, Founding Editor of IMoT Agri Forum. Reach him at email@example.com and Instagram ram_sundar_ifs
Know more about the Health benefits of millets 👇🏻