Hyderabad: Switching to millets has many health benefits and many are integrating this cereal into their regular diet. People wanting to overcome health problems (28%) and others wanting to lose weight (15%) form the largest consumer base for millets, as per the results of the first-ever large-scale survey conducted on millet consumption in India. The survey released on Saturday was aimed to offer government, Central and States and the private sector valuable insights into consumer trends to help further mainstream all types of nutricereals.

The research showed that there is a potential to increase millet consumption through awareness because even though 91% of respondents claimed that they are health conscious only 40% of them knew that millets were healthy.

The survey was coordinated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and reported in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. It was undertaken in seven cities - Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai - where 15,500 individuals were interviewed face-to-face. It provided an important baseline to track the changing consumer views about millets as more efforts are being made to promote millets.

"The report emphasized these insights to show the need for tasty products and simple recipes made from millets as well as the need for changing the image of millets," said Joanna Kane-Potaka, the study's first author and Assistant Director General (External Relations) and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative at ICRISAT.

The major reason why many don't eat millets is that it is not eaten at home. This was said by 40% of the respondents indicating the potential for the millets market to expand through many new consumers and affect multiple households.

"The data indicates that the early adopters of millets are consumers with a health problem and so they search for solutions. Second are the people who are health conscious and interested in healthy lifestyles. However, to make a big impact it will be important to reach the masses across markets," commented Dr. S. Anitha, one of the study authors and senior scientist-Nutrition at ICRISAT.

The taste was also noted to be one of the reasons why people don't prefer millets. Factory-made products such as ready-to-eat (46%) and porridge (38%) products are mostly how many people consume millets. The other factors that deterred consumption include limited availability, high price and longer cooking time.

"As this survey was undertaken in urban shopping centers, future studies should obtain similar consumer data in rural and peri-urban areas to compare various consumer segments and to develop a better understanding of millet utilization. Moreover, repeated studies should be conducted to track these changes over time and their influences on changing consumer behavior," said Dr. S. Nedumaran, Senior Scientist-Economist, ICRISAT, and a co-author of the study.

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