Health Foods are getting more Focus

Rajat K. Baisya

Heath Foods, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals are increasingly gaining grounds and the category is growing fast. Even in the regular category, marketers are increasingly focusing on communicating the nutrition and health aspects of the product more than the associated fun and convenience that goes with the consumption of any processed food.

Heath Foods, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals are increasingly gaining grounds and the category is growing fast. Even in the regular category, marketers are increasingly focusing on communicating the nutrition and health aspects of the product more than the associated fun and convenience that goes with the consumption of any processed food. This trend is now more visible and as younger generation has become more health conscious marketers are trying to focus on this attribute. As safety, health and nutrition become more important and the regulatory mechanism has become more stringent the nutritional quality assumes significance. There is a distinct shift from consumption of so called junk foods to health foods. Traditional soft and synthetic beverages are declining in growth rate whereas fruit beverages are rapidly growing. This trend has even percolated down to alcoholic beverages. There are increased social awareness about what you drink in public. Those who still drink hard liquor have also shifted to white variety, Therefore, there is preference for white rum, vodka and gin. All these go well with fruit juices or cold drink. Therefore, in social gathering you will not be able to make out what he or she is drinking. Otherwise, there is rapid growth of wine consumption. Although this increased trend on health is mainly still a urban phenomenon but this is gradually influencing the other smaller towns as well. We can see that there is a significant shift to promoting products on health platform. For example, Frooti is talking about ‘if you want mango without stone (bena gotli wala aam) then you have to go for only Frooti’. This communication tries to communicate that Frooti is selling pure mango only and nothing else. Others also try to show that fresh mango is squeezed out into the bottle of beverage. The fight is now on the health platform. Who can capture the nature’s freshness and nutrition intact better is the key. This was not so even a decade ago.

Nestle launched yoghurt earlier also. It did not work well. They have relaunched the product again taking health platform. They now say that millions of microbes are working for you for better digestion. The product has now been clearly positioned on nutrceutical platform as a probiotic. We can also see that in the market there are many brands of flavored soya milk. Even soya based products are introduced in the market by many which were very limited earlier and only a few oil seed processing company had their products marketed as a commodity. Voltas tried earlier to promote soya based nuggets and meat analogues but failed. Now soya based products are launched by many companies. Even leading protein isolate manufacturer E.I.DuPont also introduced a range of high quality soya products under the brand ‘Soyday’ produced for and on behalf of Solay, USA. The product is imported from Brazil and repacked in India for local market. And I was told that it is doing well and growing. Couple of decades ago Vitasoy was the number one soft beverages sold in Hong Kong. Vitasoy volume was more than even Coke in that country. Seeing its success Great Eastern Company introduced similar soya beverage in aseptic pack in India making significant investment but the product failed. The same plant is now producing for Godrej. Britannia had set up a composite soya processing plant in Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh but the project failed to take off and subsequently the plant was sold to S.M. Dyechem. Today one can find that soya products have made a come back after experiencing a failure. The reason is that there is shift in consumer psyche. Health is a dominant consideration for buying and consuming any food products particularly amongst youth.

Health is wealth is what modern consumers now believe. For a healthy life quality of food is a must. Food Safety and Standards Act, being implemented in phases would be expected to take care of the claim of the marketers. The nutraceuticals and functional foods market is now said to be growing at a rate of 25 to 30 percent in volume terms. There are many players now in the market. Notably amongst those are Herbalife, Amway, Nestle etc. Nutraceuticals are being promoted as an alternative medicine. Most of these companies are following multilevel marketing approach to promote their products in India. They are clearly avoiding mass media but depending on the well organized distribution set up and a dedicated sales force, most of whom are working part time in the system.

The health connotation is so important that apparently not so healthy food like butter is also trying to appear in the market with healthy note. Taking into account the changing life style Amul reduced salt in butter and introduced reduced salt butter in the market. Amul reduced salt butter has almost 50 % less salt than table butter. This product is targeted for high blood pressure patients for whom salt intake is restricted.  Sedentary lifestyles have given rise to health problems like high blood pressure, cardiac arrest etc.  These set of people have to restrict the salt intake. The product has been launched in two sizes 100gms and 500gms at a price Rs 20 and Rs 95 respectively. The company claims that it is value for money. It is difficult to say whether the reduction of salt in butter make it healthier or not but it definitely gave Amul an alternative positioning option. This also helps them to establish its leadership over functional dairy products.

The increased urbanization has given a boost to demand for health products. With rise of disposable income and educational level, the awareness for nutrition and health improves which fuels the demand of these health products. Keeping this trend in mind Amul had drawn up the plan and introduced a range of functional foods like sports drink ‘Srtamina’, pro-biotic ice cream, probiotic lassi and curd and high calcium milk and now low sodium (salt) butter.

It is interesting to note that some of these products like lassi, dahi, ice cream are same as before but are being promoted on a different platform highlighting health aspects of the products. The trend is now health and as long as it works we have no quarrel.

-- This article was first published in "Processed Food Industry" monthly magazine.

 

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