Raipur: The Chhattisgarh government is all set to foray into the growing protein energy bar market in the country.
According to government officials, the state Forest Department will manufacture organic high-protein energy bars that will be made of forest produce such as mahua, chironji seeds and honey collected by tribal villagers. Coarse grain such as ragi, kodo and sesame will also be important ingredients for the energy bars.
The state expects to launch the product within the next year. Officials of the Forest Department and the State Minor Forest Produce Co-operative Association told ThePrint that the formula for the energy bar has been prepared by experts at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysuru.
Speaking to ThePrint, Rakesh Chaturvedi, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) in the State Forest Department, said the institute is working on manufacturing the appropriate equipment for processing units and the final stage preparation for production.
“This is probably the first-of-its-kind initiative undertaken by any state government,” Chaturvedi said. “We are waiting for more information from CFTRI regarding technological requirements and processes to manufacture the bar. It will take another three to five months to commence production.”
The State Minor Forest Produce Co-operative Association will manufacture three varieties of special energy bars, which will have a common base of mahua, honey and chironji. They will be differentiated by the presence of ragi, kodo and sesame.
Anand Babu, the assistant principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) in the State Minor Forest Produce Association, said the state cabinet approved the three variants for manufacture after ministers had tasted them.
“All the samples of the energy bar sent by CFTRI were placed before the state cabinet about three to four months ago. All the cabinet ministers praised it and asked us to commence production soon,” Babu told ThePrint.
Chhattisgarh is the largest producer of minor forest produce (MFP) in the country; the state contributed over 72 per cent of MFP procured by the Centre this year and the sector is pegged at potentially being worth Rs 1,200 crore annually.
The protein bars
Chaturvedi of the State Forest Department told ThePrint that after testing, it was found that the protein bar with ragi in it had the highest level protein content at 14.2 per cent.
“This energy bar (ragi) will be quite different from all the other ones currently available in the market. The amount of protein in it is 14.2 per cent, which is being considered much more than all the other energy bars currently available in the market. The formula of these bars will also be patented by the association,” Chaturvedi said. “A major specialty of these energy bars is that all the ingredients are minor forest produce gathered from the forests by local villagers.”
Babu of the State Minor Forest Produce Association said that the bars will be completely organic.
“There will not be any kind of preservative in the energy bar produced by the Association, nor will it have any cereals. It will only be made from the prescribed minor forest produce,” he said. “Right now, some last stage work is going on in CFTRI on the machines and equipment required for production, which we hope to get soon. After receiving the machines, the State Minor Forest Produce Association will take the final decision about whether to commence production on its own or to outsource it in the PPP mode.”
Idea came from nutrition programme
The two officials said that the whole exercise to manufacture energy bars began as part of an initiative to provide quality nutritional food to children under the state’s nutrition program.
“At first, the state government had decided to prepare food from minor forest produce in order to increase the nutritional quality and taste of food distributed to children under the Suposhan Yojana (better nutrition plan),” Chaturvedi said. “It was during discussions on the process that the Forest Department decided to produce the energy bars. Samples were then sent to CFTRI for testing, method of manufacture and permission for production. Once CFTRI attested that the samples had excellent quality, then we decided to produce them commercially too.”
The officials said that right now no decision has been made on the exact price for the bars but it will soon be taken in the coming days.
Babu said the bars will be provided to children under the anganwadi scheme but at the maximum retail price (MRP).
“For now, these bars will be available to the children but on MRP. If the government decides to provide subsidy, however, then the price can be reduced,” he said. “We believe that once this product hits the market, demand for it will increase manifold. Therefore, we have also made preparations to get a patent for it.”