Women entrepreneurs should focus on innovative food businesses, like diabetic confectionary items, due to its immense potential in Bangladesh, analysts said yesterday.
Demand for diabetic and functional food is gradually increasing with greater health awareness, said AK Obidul Huq, assistant professor at the department of food technology and nutritional science at Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University (MBSTU), Tangail.
A functional food is a food that has an additional advantage -- often related to health-promotion or disease prevention -- by adding new ingredients or more of existing ingredients.
Tulsi tea, sugar-free biscuits, probiotic yogurt, and vitamin-A enriched carrot noodles are some products that women entrepreneurs should explore, he said. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, especially digestive systems.
“We see a huge prospect for functional food,” said Sukamal Sinha Choudhury, SME consultant of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM).
Women should progress towards food processing, rather than focusing on tailoring or boutiques, for higher business growth, he added.
They spoke at a seminar on Empowering SME Women Entrepreneurs in Food Processing: Diabetic and Functional Foods, co-organised by Bangladesh Bank, BIBM, Protina HM Food Products, CIRDAP and MBSTU in Dhaka.
Demand for safe food is set to increase as the country lacks a supply of fresh and healthy food, said Md Alauddin, vice chancellor of MBSTU.
Many people refrain from having fruits and baked food for fear of chemical contamination and unhygienic preparation, he said.
Currently, Bangladesh has close to 5.9 million people with diabetes. The figure is expected to double by 2030.
Diabetic food will obviously have huge scope for growth in the country, said Shamim Ahmed Chaudhury, managing director of AB Bank.
“Being diabetic, I know the importance of such food,” he said.
Developed nations have already registered huge growth in diabetic and functional foods, he added.
It is good that some women entrepreneurs are coming up with such products in Bangladesh, he said.
Women entrepreneurs can easily start a food business by borrowing from financial institutions, said Selim RF Hussain, chief executive of IDLC Finance.
Ahsan-uz Zaman, managing director of Midland Bank, stressed the need to identify real women entrepreneurs, to extend soft loans.
Nirmal Chandra Bhakta, executive director of Bangladesh Bank, also spoke.