Nutra industry offers enough space for multiple players to function and bring solutions to market

Arun Balakrishnan, Chief Scientific Officer, OmniActive Health Technologies

OmniActive was born from Kancor Ingredients, an ingredient supplier rooted in the food and flavouring industry. Kancor is in the business of extracting pure, quality ingredients from whole foods for many years. Kancor and OmniActive were founded by the Mariwala family, a known entity in spice industry.  

OmniActive invests generously in R&D and innovation and focuses on sustainable agriculture and minimal impact on environment through agricultural and manufacturing initiatives. Speaking to NuFFooDS Spectrum, Arun Balakrishnan, Chief Scientific Officer explains how nutraceutical industry in India needs to be expanded and will evolve rapidly.

  • Many pharmaceutical companies have developed interest in producing nutraceuticals and have set up separate divisions. How do you look at competition when pharma companies are entering nutra sector?

Contrary to being a threat, the entry of pharma companies in the nutraceutical space will definitely help in increasing awareness and expansion of this category as a whole. Since the industry is in a growth phase, entry of big players will help bring more innovative products to the market and drive consumer awareness. Factors such as a spike in lifestyle diseases, rising healthcare costs and higher disposable incomes are creating demand for nutraceuticals with health and wellness gaining prominence. From a competition standpoint, the industry offers enough space for multiple players to function and bring solutions to the market.

  • What challenges pharma companies face as compared to nutra firms to get into the market?

Pharmaceutical companies are focused on multiple products and the gestation cycle tends to be very long. Whereas nutraceutical companies tend to be very specialised, with investments focused on research and technologies geared to develop selected few products. Products in the nutraceutical space have shorter gestation cycles so time to market is also less considerably. Additionally, nutra products are generally plant based and being from natural sources, their safety and efficacy is well known. At OmniActive, we have created revolutionary nutrient delivery technologies like OmniBead and UltraSol that are helping solve some of the greatest challenges that supplement manufacturers face.

  • Importance of functional foods and dietary supplement products in one’s health?

Most of the nutraceutical products are directed towards general wellness and preventive care rather than treatment after the onset of a disease. Shifting the focus to preventive care over curative is a major instrument of growth for the nutraceutical industry.

  • Corporate culture, changing lifestyle and stressful work in India is giving rise to diet and fitness related diseases in India. Do you think the time is right for upcoming health and food industry?

People are looking at improving the overall quality of life and are actively taking charge of their health with rising awareness of lifestyle disorders as well as preventive care options. Also with an increase in purchasing power, people have the willingness and ability to spend on options for their healthier living. The recent burst of adulteration in food-based products has again shifted focus from other sources to natural and plant-based products. 

Given this scenario, yes it is the right time for companies to focus on India for the nutraceutical markets as we have seen several advantages and businesses growing in the rest of the world using the above approaches. It is also important to impart knowledge on benefits of these products so as to give consumers the ability to make an informed choice about their health.

  • Why nutraceutical industries still look ‘underdeveloped’ or rather has ‘considerable potential’

Nutraceutical industry in India needs to be expanded and will evolve much more rapidly with proper guidelines or regulations. There is tremendous potential for growth with the Indian nutraceuticals market set to grow over two fold to $6.1 billion by 2020 according to a study by ASSOCHAM.  

This spurt in growth is largely because of consumers becoming more conscious towards their health and fitness. Nutraceutical products are mainly derived as extracts from plants whose properties towards a specific health benefit has been either reported in scientific literature or practiced in other forms of medicine. The need of the hour is more refined R&D   and science-based marketing of a product. This is done only by a few companies.  

Integrating the regulatory needs for a particular geography and preparing products that fall within these parameters will help drive the business worldwide. Therefore, creating a robust pipeline of new products for specific health needs is an important step. This will also help synergise rapid growth.  

Another issue in India is that the general perception among customers is that the nutraceutical products sold in India are “over emphasising” their claims and not validated with robust data. Strong science and responsible claims will help take care of consumer concerns and drive growth in the industry.

  • Future outlook of market economics for this industry

The ASSOCHAM study predicts a huge potential for growth for this industry. In India too, acceptance levels of nutraceutical products are on the rise.  

However, a thorough understanding of the product and scientific knowledge of how it exerts a specific action should be validated by well researched studies. If such data is available, then the market acceptance will be much higher. Consumers will also be assured whether the product and its claims are governed by world class regulations.

  • How the market will evolve as it moves forward considering the significant demand among consumers for supplementary and functional foods

Given the changing preferences and lifestyle choices that consumers are making, the market is slated to evolve into a huge segment catering to the everyday health needs of the consumer and driving health and wellness as a focus area among Indian consumers.

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