Tuesday, July 2, 2013


But for the brewery industry barley as a commercial crop would have faced extinction long ago. As it is the main ingredient in the manufacture of beer and a few spirits, cultivation of Barley received a fillip and there is no looking back once alcohol industry started growing in India at a frenetic pace. It is not that all alcoholic beverages need barley for the fermentation because most Indians consume Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), made by fermentation of molasses a by-product of sugar industry. Besides Arrack the distilled product from coconut toddy is the most popular drink in Kerala with practically every person consuming it regularly. Barley has a USP in that when germinated it produces the typical enzymes that convert starch into malt which in turn is a base material for making malt extract and alcohol fermentation. Interestingly Barley got further boost when consumers started getting more and more aware about health and the importance of non-starch polysaccharides like beta glucans in lowering cholesterol in the blood that keeps heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc at bay. Being a grain with low Glycemic Index (GI) it is considered one of the best foods for controlling blood sugar in those persons affected by diabetes. Here is the story of the revival of Barley as illustrated by one of the admirers and what future it has in India. 

Barley, a rabi (winter season) coarse cereal that had lost out to wheat in the post-green revolution period in terms of productivity and consumer preference, is back. The revival of farmers' interest in this versatile cereal has been triggered by increased demand from the malting, brewing, confectionery and pharmaceutical industries, coupled with the evolution of its high-yielding varieties suitable for industrial uses. Besides, it underwent an image makeover to regain consumer appeal as a health food, thanks to its high content of cholesterol-lowering fibres, both soluble and insoluble, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Barley is now increasingly being used as an ingredient in the multigrain health foods, including multigrain atta(flour) and bread, baby foods, cocoa-malt drinks and several other products.

It might not have escaped the notice of consumers who are bombarded with promotional ads in the electronic media regarding the USP of malt based dairy beverages which have very appealing flavor and color attracting every child. Malt extract prepared from barley malt is one of the most sought after flavoring materials in chocolate industry. The original Ovaltine and Horlicks, age old health drinks, owed their popularity to the barley malt extract. It is another matter that there are many new avatars which have appeared in the Indian market, equally popular with kids and adults alike. With prices of rice hitting the roof in India, Barley offers an attractive low cost alternative available at about 70-80% of the price of rice. Cooked whole Barley looks and tastes almost like red rice and the high nutritional content is an added bonus. Probably Barley getting into the mainstream cereal market may dramatically revive its fortunes. The only worry is that it should not go the Oat's way becoming a super hyped gran with all types of health claims priced at three times that of rice!    


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