Aishwarya Srinivasan, co-owner of Millet Jars, talks about their new omegrown and family-owned business that offers unique millet-based products for the ealth-conscious
Mixes and meals of millets
My grandmother would tell us that rice and chapatis were food for special occasions and events; it was mostly millets that they consumed daily,” begins Chennai-based entrepreneur Aishwarya Srinivasan. While rice may have became more popular in the family diet, millets never lost their place in daily meals for the Srinivasan family. “In the mornings, when I used to go to school, we would have all kinds of millets in porridge and some red rice.
All that would be powdered and eaten in the morning. It was the same for my children and my sister’s kids. So, we’ve been following this diet since then. Murukkus we make for Diwali also have some added millets, such as ragi,” she continues. A month ago, in an attempt to simplify this nutritional diet for others and present it to more children, Aishwarya, her mother Bhuvaneshwari, and her sister Vinu Dharshini set up Millet Jars. But how can one get a child excited about millets? You get creative.
Healthy but fun
“There was a lot of R&D that went behind this. We have been working for a year and a half. We wanted to make it innovative; what children prefer, not the usual dosa, idli, porridge,” shares Aishwarya. The brand produces (currently five) FMCG products for the health-conscious with no preservatives, hydrogenated fats and additive colours, including pancake mix with millets, quinoa and palm jaggery, panniyaram mix with oats and millets, and three varieties of noodles — beetroot and kodo millet, moringa and little millet, and thinai millet. The noodles can be cooked with the optional spice packet available (containing MSG) or used to construct original dishes. On the business end, while all three founders are managing directors as well, Bhuvaneshwari works on the research and development, building the recipes for these products, Aishwarya has taken over marketing and Vinu Dharshini handles social media and the website.
With the health food wave at a peak, thanks to the pandemic, millets are slowly gaining recognition, Aishwarya mentions, which carves a niche for products like these. “2023 has been declared (by the UN) as the Year of Millets. There is so much awareness because of the pandemic. The main thing is that millets are gluten-free which is something people are looking for now. It also has so many health benefits; for diabetes, the health of your skin, for weight loss. And, anyone at any age can consume these,” she says. And while they had to add a little whole wheat flour to their noodles (unfortunately unable to keep them gluten-free), they have maintained at least 60 per cent of millets in the product as opposed to the usual 30 in other brands.
What the public thinks
Despite only being in the market for one month, the brand has garnered an impressive response, notes Aishwarya. “I didn’t expect so much response so soon but we have received very nice feedback for the noodles from those who have tasted it. The packaging, as well — many people said is very different from the usual products,” she elaborates, adding that children have also come back with great feedback when it came to the taste of the product. These noodles, due to lack of maida and inclusion of millets, are drier than the other alternatives available in the market but that has seemingly not fazed the young crowd. “We were wondering whether people would like it or not but we’re glad they did. I have even got calls from dieticians who conveyed positive thoughts and were able to understand what we were trying to do,” she smiles.
While reception has been generous, it is only a niche section of the health-conscious that seems to seek out the products. “People who are aware of gluten-free products and want to include millets in their diet are taking to the product. Others compare our prices to other brands and decide not to go for it but that (the price) is so because of our ingredients, and we have worked on our packages a lot, keeping them packet-free; box style. In some supermarkets, we are getting a great response but there is still awareness needed for a product like this. I want more people to know about millets. Only when the customers are aware can we explain and justify our products,” Aishwarya maintains.
In the future, the brand looks to venture into the baking sphere as well, introducing millet-based cake mixes and more, but that is currently still just in the conception phase.
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