Flourishing Functional Foods & Supplements Sector

The dietary supplements market in India grew at a CAGR of ~15 per cent, to reach Rs 33,100 crore in FY21. This segment, always considered to hold high potential, given the growing trend of lifestyle diseases, has witnessed an accelerated adoption curve, post-COVID-19. Over the past year, the demand for herbal supplements, vitamins, and minerals has witnessed a growth of over 25 per cent. Likewise, the health-food and beverages segment grew at ~14 per cent CAGR during FY18-21 to reach Rs 70,000 crore in FY21. Consumers are actively looking out for brands with incremental nutrients like protein, fibre, vitamins, calcium, and minerals, enhancing the purpose of basic foods, according to a report released by Ernst and Young (EY) in 2022. 

The major product launches in 2022 were governed by well-established players like Dabur, Hamdard, Himalaya and Baidyanath playing their cards in the ayurvedic and herbal supplements space, while other non-traditional players such as Amway, Herbalife, Abbott also gathered strong sales. The sector also witnessed emergence of contemporary ayurveda, herbal and other wellness products from startups such as Kapiva, OZiva, Power Gummies, FullLife who are packaging home remedies and other nutrients in contemporary formats such as effervescent tablets, gummies and lozenges.

Commenting on this trend, Angshuman Bhattacharya, National Leader – Consumer Product & Retail Sector, EY India says, “While some see this as a short-term phenomenon, we expect this phase to catalyse a larger acceleration in the propensity towards personal health, hygiene, fitness and holistic nutrition. European and Asian nations have adopted functional foods and supplements, the Indian consumer is still predominantly showing a preference for “better for you” foods and home remedies. Ayurveda and herbal options are increasingly becoming “back to roots” answers to modern problems. In the next five years, we expect consumer product companies to invest in demand creation and increasing consumer education.”

While the industry players are increasingly making efforts in the Indian health food market by developing new forms of supplements, the initiative by the Indian government is also expected to boost the market further. In October 2022, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for setting up a testing facility for dietary supplements. This has been a major step towards ensuring quality dietary supplements and the adoption of best practices for nutritional supplements. Such initiatives coupled with growing consumer interest in health food is going to propel the health food business in India in the near future.

According to Swati Dalal, Managing Director & General Manager – Nutrition at Abbott Nutrition, “Looking at the health and wellness trends that are coming up, we can see a lot more segments emerging in health foods across the spectrum of age groups ranging from young consumers to ageing adults. A lot more is emerging in the women’s health food segment as well. So the opportunities that are emerging will allow manufacturers to innovate in products catering to different segments. Moreover, opportunities in plant-based offerings and innovations in multiple formats of health food will emerge. Also, a lot of collaborations can happen between academia, organisations, government, and industry to look at building awareness among consumers and driving penetration in the market.”

India- A manufacturing hub in the making

Being a powerhouse of most of the herbal ingredients employed in health food and dietary supplements, India is a major source of raw materials and manufactured formulations for domestic as well as international health businesses. Owing to the large range of agro-climatic conditions, India has a competitive edge over the existing nutraceutical manufacturing countries. With insightful management practices and effective planning, Indian nutraceutical products can achieve internationally-accepted quality standards and certifications. This fruitful scenario makes India a manufacturing hub for various international health food companies.  

As dietary supplements and herbal foods constitute a big chunk of preventive care options, they are in the spotlight, and therefore on the top of manufacturers’ lists, further enhancing the manufacturing capacity of the Indian health food industry. The sheer variety of nutraceuticals ranging from vitamin and mineral tablets/gummies, protein powders, to herbal pills is helpful for industry manufacturers with production capabilities for similar products. It eliminates the need for setting up manufacturing infrastructure from scratch.

This observation can be validated by looking at the recent herbal supplements launched in India. For example, Dabur India, a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, announced its foray into the health food drink category with the launch of ‘Dabur Vita’. It is made with a blend of more than 30+ herbs like Ashwagandha, Giloy, and Brahmi, which are scientifically proven not only to provide better immunity but also to promote physical and mental growth among kids. The FMCG giant has also launched ‘Dabur Vedic Green Tea Detox Kahwa’, a green tea infused with ayurvedic herbs and rock salt. 

Another player, Herbalife Nutrition, a global nutrition company, announced the launch of Relaxation Tea in selected markets. Specially formulated with an herbal blend of lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, and passionflower, this tea enhances relaxation and is suited to those who are looking for daily ways to unwind from stress. 

In addition, 2022 saw herbal supplements in the form of gummies carving a niche in the Indian health food market. Popping hard-to-swallow tablets or awful-tasting supplements are some of the disadvantages of the tablet and capsule form of dietary supplements that are making way for chewable gummies.

Abbott, the global healthcare leader, launched Arachitol Gummies in India, a new fruit-flavoured product for kids and adults. Arachitol Gummies are a dietary supplement that helps maintain required levels of Vitamin D sustainably. Formulated with additional essential micronutrients such as calcium and curcumin, they help support bone health and immunity. These easy-to-consume gummies are approved as health supplements by the Food Safety and Standards Authority in India (FSSAI).

With the launch of Horlicks Nutri Gummies, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) forayed into the gummies segment this year. Tamil Nadu-based wellness brand – Nidra Nutrition launched its product-line introducing the world’s first stress relief gummies containing 175 mg of Ashwagandha. While expanding its product portfolio, Nature Sure, a brand owned by Delhi-based Wet and Dry Personal Care, launched chewable health gummies. Suitable for both men and women, these gummies are infused with potent ingredients such as curcumin, omega-3, blueberry, and other herbal ingredients.

“There’s a visible shift towards preventive healthcare and the pandemic has only accelerated the adoption curve. Foods and supplements addressing specific health needs such as women’s health, digestive, immunity-building, using old-world ingredients but packaged in contemporary formats would drive growth in this segment. While disease-prevention and vitality are important consumer planks, another relevant thematic for innovation would be energy and fitness”, says Kshitij Sheth, Managing Director, ChrysCapital.

Indeed, fitness and energy held a strong position in the dietary supplement space this year with multiple launches of protein powders and related products. We saw Danone India, a nutrition product manufacturing company, launching Protinex Diabetes Care with an aim to address the nutritional requirements of Indians with diabetes.

Tata Consumer Products (TCP) entered the health supplements segment with the launch of ‘Tata GoFit’, a health supplement range for women. Tata GoFit plant protein powder is a plant-based easy-to-mix product formulated with the goodness of gut-friendly probiotics with 18 grams of protein per 25-gram serving. 

New Delhi-based firm Modicare forayed into the rapidly growing sports-nutrition space, while strengthening and expanding its presence in the wellness segment. The sports-nutrition products consist of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), whey protein and whey protein isolate, etc. Dr. Morepen has launched muscle-food BCAA and pre-workout products. Additionally, a sports nutrition brand Myprotein, and a dairy brand in India, Keventers have launched unique pre- or post-workout protein shakes (whey protein and isolate) in chocolate hazelnut flavour.

Another major development in the dietary supplement space this year came in the form of cannabis-based products by startups like BOHECO and Hempstreet. Although the entry of such innovative products in the Indian market builds a productive environment, regulatory concerns around the use of cannabis might create hurdles.

“There are two distinct market opportunities for the Indian nutraceutical industry i.e. exports-led and domestic demand-led. The nutraceutical market has immense potential to achieve at least two to three times growth in the next five years. Innovation, sufficient funding, regulatory support by introducing conducive measures, and tax subsidies will be the key drivers in bringing the growth and motivating entry of new players in the market”, says Sanjaya Mariwala, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, OmniActive Health Technologies.

Pharma Cos cash in 

Although a large number of supplement-based products were launched in the market by food and FMCG companies in 2022, one cannot ignore the efforts being made by pharmaceutical firms in building a spot for themselves. 

Mumbai-based pharmaceutical firm Cipla’s wholly-owned subsidiary and consumer healthcare company Cipla Health signed definitive agreements for the acquisition of Endura Mass, a renowned nutritional supplement brand in the category of weight gain from Medinnbelle Herbalcare.  This acquisition is in sync with Cipla’s strategic imperative to augment the company’s wellness portfolio for bringing about a shift from an illness to a wellness mindset.

On the other hand, global pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline’s Haleon, a consumer healthcare division, launched the multivitamin brand Centrum in India. 

Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals, a New Delhi-based contract manufacturing pharmaceutical company, has entered into a joint venture with Tamil Nadu-based Microcore Research, which is the only manufacturer of Natural Eggshell Membrane (NESM). With this tie-up, Akums will now leverage NESM and develop dietary supplements for maintaining healthy joint and connective tissues. 

In an effort to bridge the gap in the supplements market and fuel its business growth ambitions, Akums has also exclusively partnered with French firm LC Ingredients for obtaining raw material, manufacturing, innovating, and selling finished products containing Cynatine to all Indian big pharma and nutraceutical companies for the benefit of consumers.

“In the erstwhile market, there were no healthcare supplements other than biotin and regular hair, nail and skin (HNS) multivitamins for controlling hair fall and other related issues. We identified this gap and when we found out about Cynatine, the only soluble source of keratin known, we connected with the innovator company LC Ingredients with the aim to get exclusive rights so that we may introduce this revolutionary healthcare supplement in India”, says Sanjeev Jain, Co-founder & Director, Akums Drugs & Pharmaceuticals.

Even though Cynatine is a soluble form of keratin, it has not yet been listed with the regulatory authority, FSSAI. This means that no pharmaceutical company in India is permitted to produce it. This makes Akums, the only company in India with exclusive rights to sell this supplement. The company has already conducted its own clinical trials on the Indian population and classified the supplement within the normal foods category.

Then there is Pune-based SAVA Healthcare, which manufactures human and veterinary pharmaceuticals. The company has recently announced the launch of its OTC (over the counter) business of herbal formulations, under the name of SAVA Herbals, which is based on the science of Ayurveda. 

Further, Ahmedabad-based drug major Cadila Pharmaceuticals has introduced an Ayurvedic general health tonic that helps keep the body young, active, and fit. New Delhi-based Arbro Pharmaceuticals has launched its cosmetic and nutraceutical line, Ningen. Health OK, a multivitamin and minerals tablet from the house of Mankind Pharma, has expanded its product offering with the launch of gummies for children under the age group of 7-17 years old.

Adding to the list is ENTOD Beauty London in collaboration with Mumbai-based Entod Pharmaceuticals launching its Eyecirque range of vision enhancing & under eye skin brightening supplements designed to provide enhanced protection and nutrition to the eyes and the skin around them.

Fueling job creation

Considering the rate at which this sector is growing in India, the country will very soon achieve self-reliance in manufacturing and development of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, thereby opening new job opportunities. Particularly when we are seeing multiple collaborations taking place between the industry and academics in this space.

For instance, the probiotic brand manufacturer Yakult Danone India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SRM University, Delhi-NCR, Sonepat, Haryana earlier this year, in the core areas of education and sharing knowledge. The MoU will allow an exchange of information on the recent advances in the science of gut microbiota & probiotics and guidance will be provided to the students on new areas for research in this sphere. 

Additionally, with a view to collaborating with well-entrenched partners to propel the benefits of probiotics, Yakult Danone India has also signed an MoU with National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), Kundli, Sonepat, Haryana.

Furthermore, Amway India, an FMCG company, has partnered with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to accelerate research in the field of nutraceuticals, botanicals, and herbal supplements. As a part of this partnership, a team of in-house Amway researchers in collaboration with IIT Bombay will pioneer methods and techniques to bring breakthrough innovation in the field of health supplements, nutraceuticals, botanicals, and herbal supplements to gain deeper insights into Amway’s nutrition & herbal range of products and ingredients.

Then we also saw Noida-based Zeon Lifesciences announcing an MoU with University of Petroleum & Energy Studies (UPES) – Dehradun for collaborative research in the fields of nutraceuticals, wellness, phytopharmaceuticals, ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy.

The future looks very interesting for the dietary supplements market, as more companies from the pharmaceutical industry and the FMCG sector enter the market, invest in product technology and brands, and influence consumption habits amongst consumers. Overall, the year 2022 has been a fruitful one for the emerging nutraceutical industry in India. With new entries, novel launches, and diverse offerings, India is set to further expand its health food supplement offerings in 2023. 

Mansi Jamsudkar


Image credit- shutterstock

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