Indian milk products were developed to preserve the nutritional goodness of milk and to extend the shelf-life under high ambient temperature. Today milk production in India is growing at an exponential rate; hence the onus of preserving the surplus milk production is now on food processors. According to various reports, handmade dairy delicacies have gone into mass production through industrial application of a wide range of technologies.

The market for this largest and fastest growing segment of Indian dairying is estimated at Rs 50,000 crores. The indigenous dairy products are the country’s largest selling and most profitable segment and account for 50 per cent of the milk produced. The growth of this sector is estimated at Rs 5,000 crores annually and covers products such as dahi, paneer, rasogolla, and shrikhand among others. Significant headway has been made in the industrial production of traditional sweets including gulabjamun, peda and burfi. The city of Bikaner in the state of Rajasthan has emerged as a large custom processing, manufacturing and marketing centre for canned rasogollas. An estimated 75,000 tonnes of canned rasogolla are manufactured annually in Bikaner

The top 15 states in the country account for over 94 per cent of the total milk production. Buffalo milk is surplus in the North whereas in East and South, the cow milk is surplus. Buffalo milk is most preferred for production of sweets based on desiccated products like khoa (burfi, kalakand, peda, gulabjamun), associated with fermented milk (lassi, shrikhand, dahi, mattha etc) and fat-rich traditional dairy products (ghee, makkhan etc); whereas cow milk is most preferred milk for acid coagulated milk products like rasogolla, sandesh, rajbhog etc.

 Consumption trends

The changing economic scenario of India has resulted in increased annual income of the families. Over 70 per cent families are in middle class, and another 11 per cent in upper class. Hence, the consumption of sweets and other Indian delicacies does not depend on celebrations or festive seasons but has become a part of regular meal.

The international trade policies and treaties are making it quite difficult for us to export conventional products like SMP, WMP, butter and cheese. Milk production of China is growing @ 16 per cent per annum. Hence, it can give a very tough fight to India in conventional dairy products in the international market.

 The population of Indian entrepreneurs and scholars is growing across the globe. The diaspora, estimated at over 25 million, is spread across more than 200 countries with a high concentration in regions such as the Middle East, the United States of America, Malaysia and South Africa. Similar trends can be seen in EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The global Indians represent a highly successful ethnic group and are creating the major market for Indian sweets. In North America alone this market had exceeded US $500 million. In the Middle East and EU, the market of Indian sweets is growing at a rapid rate.

Bikanervala is already exporting packaged sweets to the United States, United Kingdom and the Middle East, which have large NRI population. About 25 per cent of Bikanervala’s local production of branded sweets is now being exported. There are also plans to sell mithais as chocolates. Research and development for the same is underway.

One reason why branded Indian sweets have not made it big in the past is because the manufacturers had not invested enough in research and development. This is changing. More and more dairy plants in the cooperative and private sectors have started production of these mithais and other delicacies on a commercial scale, thus expanding the market for them. This trend has resulted in scaling up the production volume as well as paying due attention to products safety, hygiene and consistent quality. It is paving the way for future growth of the organised dairy sector.

Amul has also forayed aggressively into traditional Indian sweet market with several delicacies. The Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd, popularly known as Amul Dairy, has set up an automatic khoa manufacturing plant at its existing chocolate plant at Mogar in Anand (Gujarat) to take these sweets to major metros. Players like Amul were not entering this largely unorganised market because of the constraints regarding their shelf life.

Amul has now made inroads into this segment by increasing shelf life of these sweets through modified atmosphere packing (MAP) — the technology that it is using in packaging cheese slices. With MAP, shelf life of the kaju katri that the local halwai (a caste of traditional sweet-makers) could not offer for more than a fortnight has been increased to 45 days. Similarly, pedas that hardly survived for a week can be consumed for a month.

The Sugam Unit of the Baroda District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd in Gujarat has played a pioneering role in the production and marketing of fresh, packaged, traditional dairy products. Its product range has expanded to include shrikhand, paneer, gulabjamun, peda, dahi, kulfi, burfi, kaju katli, rasogolla, malai laddoo and the like. Several of these products are exported in tonnage quantities under the brand name of Amul.

 Novel foods and nutraceuticals

Hippocrates ‘the father of modern medicine’ said in 400 BC, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”. Essentially, nutraceuticals and functional foods are “food components that provide demonstrated physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic disease, above and beyond their basic nutritional functions. A functional food is similar to a conventional food, while a nutraceutical is isolated from a food and sold in dosage form; in both cases the active components occur naturally in the food”. Indigenous foods are characterised by their richness, sweetness etc, but the changing health scenario, increased urbanisation has made people more prone to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and other nutritional disorders; hence, the acceptance of Indian sweets may reduce with time due to health consciousness.

As the number of people with diabetes grows worldwide, the disease takes an ever-increasing proportion of national health care budgets. In 2014 the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated to be 9 per cent among adults aged 18+ years. An estimated 1.5 million deaths are directly caused by diabetes. More than 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. However, it has long been known that the number of deaths related to diabetes is considerably underestimated.

Many of these diabetes related deaths are from cardiovascular complications. Most of them are premature deaths at a time when the people concerned are economically contributing to society. This situation is increasingly outstretching the health-care resources devoted to diabetes. Even worse, diabetes is projected to become one of the world’s main disablers and killers within the next twenty-five years.

We have analysed the trend and started work on the project of development of diabetic and low calorie indigenous sweets. The ingredients were called from all over the world. Laboratory trials were done and today we have standardised manufacture of almost all indigenous dairy products without sugar. The problem which needs to be tackled is the duration of shelf-life. The world market is flooded with sugar-free chocolates and confectionaries. The major challenge is that sugar gives sweetness, texture and is a Class I preservative. So it is not easy to substitute sugar with any artificial sweetener. Artificial sweeteners are of two types: intensive sweeteners and bulk sweeteners.

Non-nutritive sweeteners, also called artificial or non-caloric sweeteners, are intensely sweet synthetic substances, often used in place of other sugars in food manufacturing and cooking because they are calorie-free. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four non-nutritive sweeteners for use in food: acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and, sucralose. Out of this list, most of these sweeteners have an after-taste. Aspartame is very unstable to heat and pH.


Getting increasing attention is Stevia, a non-caloric, zero-carb natural sweetener, derived from a South American plant stevia rebaudiana. It has been in wide use in Asia for some years now. It is becoming more readily available in North America in health food and natural food stores. So far, it appears to be well tolerated, with no reports of negative effects. It is available as a liquid extract — either concentrated or dilute, a white crystalline powder made from the extract or simply the powdered green herb leaf. It provides an intense sweet taste, which has the potential to be bitter. Some people find it has a slight anise/licorice flavour which may or may not be objectionable.

Bulk sweeteners are generally used in foods for their role in texture and body development. They impart non-cariogenic effect against dental caries, and display preservative action like sugar. This group involves mainly sugar alcohols — also called polyols. They are a class of carbohydrate that are neither sugars nor alcohols. This group includes maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, and hydrolysed starch hydrolysates (HSH).

These popular sugar substitutes provide the bulk and sweetness of sugar and corn syrup, but are incompletely absorbed in the intestine. Thus they provide fewer calories and carbs than sugar, and result in a much slower and smaller rise in blood sugar and insulin. They are generally recognised as safe for diabetics to consume for this reason, and products sweetened with the sugar alcohols may legally be labelled “sugar-free” in both Canada and the US. Sugar alcohols do not promote oral bacteria. In fact, xylitol inhibits bacterial growth, thereby preventing tooth decay.

There is a great deal of confusion about whether or not these products provide carbohydrates, and how they should be counted toward a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Some authorities say they provide zero carbs because they are not absorbed. Others, such as Diabetic Associations across North America, are taking a more cautious stand. Currently, food labelling regulations in Canada and the US do not require (yet) including maltitol et al in the total carbohydrate data of the nutrients list. However, the amount must be listed in the ingredients panel.

All authorities recommend using caution and definitely moderation is the key, because sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed in the bowel, they have a nasty reputation of holding onto water, and promoting diarrhoea, gas and bloating. This is politely termed the “laxative effect”. Sorbitol and mannitol are the worst offenders, maltitol and lactitol less so. The label should indicate the serving size. This is the amount considered safe to eat before the laxative effect takes over. So beware that overeating these foods can have serious effects. Especially for children, who of course will experience the effect from an even smaller amount.

The Indian traditional milk products sector has taken a commendable initiative in modernizing its operation, including mechanisation and automation. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has allowed a number of additives like artificial sweeteners and preservatives in all indigenous dairy products to make them competitive. They should be developed into functional foods to cope with the nutritional disorders and allied problems. Packaging of Indian dairy products needs improvement to give an extended shelf-life under ambient conditions.