This month, in the flour category in the grocery section of Amazon, jackfruit flour brand Jackfruit 365 was at number three spot, behind Aashirvaad atta and Vedaka atta. In fact, just look at any grocery shelf today and the variety of flours is mind boggling – there is ragi, amaranth, millet, oats, buckwheat, and multigrain flours infused with beetroot powder. In some niche stores, you will even find coconut flour, banana flour, and almond flour. Globally, cauliflower flour is a big new fad.
The daily grain in India – which for the longest time was rice and wheat – has suddenly got floured by competition. Start-ups offering alternative flours or fortified flours have found so much success that big brands like Aashirvaad are adding multigrain mixes to their portfolio.
Take Raghav Gupta, founder of Oateo Oats, which is pushing oats flour as a standalone flour. There is no food space oats hasn’t found itself in, he says, and has the potential to be the third grain of India after rice and wheat. “Oats is a blooming market. As per a recent study the oat flour segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5 per cent projected to reach $2970.5 million by 2026.”
Or take Slurrp Farm, a start up that plays primarily in millet flour (jowar, ragi and foxtail), oats flour, amaranth flour and red rice flower along with vegetable powders like beetroot in its pancake and dosa mixes.
The reason alternative flours are in demand, says Shauravi Malik, founder, Slurrp Farm, is that people are beginning to realize that food is medicine. She says the diversity in our food grains which was there during our grandparents’ times had gone missing and now people want to bring that back on their plates.
The health factor
Talk to nutritionists, and the start-up founders and the foremost reason for the alternative grains to accelerate and flourish – especially during the pandemic – is health. According to James Joseph, founder, Jackfruit 365, “Interest in alternative flour is driven due to diabetes and gluten intolerance. Both rice and wheat being refined simple carbs are high in glycemic index. In addition more and more people are becoming allergic to wheat.”
Shauravi Malik also points to the weight watchers club who are looking at calorific value of flours, hence the growing interest in exotic alternatives like cauliflower. A hundred grams of rice or wheat has nearly 250 calories while cauliflower rice which is on many healthy menus these days would have a fraction of that.
The other factor for these alternative flours to take off is that processing technology has improved and it's easier to manufacture flours that can be easily used in dishes. From baking to brewing they can be used.