The young and the health-conscious have always been on the lookout for the very best in terms of nutrition and health benefits from their daily foods. Three years post-COVID-19, the market is abuzz with new and improved food products that claim to address this growing need of the Indian population, especially in the urban areas. Ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook Superfoods seem to have taken the fancy of a wide section of the population. These foods are not just convenient for daily use but also solve the concerns of under-nutrition, protein and vitamin deficiencies rampant in the country. Let’s explore the Superfoods space and check out a few notable players in India.
With Western culture influencing consumers’ vision toward health and healthy foods, Indians have been constantly exploring unique eating habits. With each day passing, there has been a ‘hype’ of one or another food trend among Indian consumers. In the list of plant-based food, ferments, sustainable foods, fusion foods, trendy beverages, Grab-&-go meals, among others, the concept of superfoods has already claimed its place. Call it Superfoods,’ ‘power foods,’ or ‘top 10 foods’, consumers have latched on to their favourite terms and also included the foods coming along with these terms in their daily diet.
The biggest names in the Indian food industry have also shown immense interest in the superfoods category, consumers are getting plenty of new options to satisfy their hunger for so-called ‘Superfoods’. To name a few big names, Dabur’s superfood seeds range, ITC and Nestle India’s superfood millet breakfast options, Marico’s oats breakfast portfolio, etc. have gained significant popularity among health food lovers.
Along with these food industry giants, a huge list of startups has also emerged in this category. Some of these startups have not only been innovating in the space but also growing manifold with investments from fundraisers, other industry players, celebrities, etc. Nourish You, India’s first home-grown superfood startup, and Bengaluru-headquartered Superfood Valley, one of the major players in the superfoods category have very recently raised $2 million and $1 million respectively as a part of their Seed funding rounds. Such funding is further inspiring these and many more startups in the space to launch unique and set new trends among consumers.
According to an IMARC report, the global superfoods market size reached $ 162.6 billion in 2022. Looking forward, the research organisation expects the market to reach $ 226.3 billion by 2028, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5 per cent during 2023-2028.
What’s the hype?
According to the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, there’s no scientifically based or regulated definition for superfood, but generally, food is promoted to superfood status when it offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value. Its inclusion in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary confirms its widespread use, which defines a superfood as “a food that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fibre, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.”
Superfoods often translate into super sales that have created a billion-dollar industry today. According to a Nielson survey, consumers are willing to pay more for foods perceived as healthy, and health claims on labels help. Interestingly, foods already perceived as beneficial that also carry a health claim show the most significant sales. This may be due to providing added confirmation of a consumer’s knowledge about a healthful food, increasing the likelihood they will purchase it. The survey also shows that about 80 per cent of respondents see “food as medicine” and eat certain foods to prevent health problems like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Moreover, according to Mintel research, in 2015 there was a 36 per cent increase globally in the number of foods and beverages launched that were labelled as a “superfood,” “superfruit,” or “super grain,” with the United States leading those product launches. No surprise then that plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are generally perceived as health-promoting, often top superfoods lists.
However, it is not a scientifically recognised category of food since there have been no specific criteria to decide what superfood is and what is not. Still, the term is used regularly and it’s a huge developing market. Unique products are getting introduced in the market and the category shows promising future trends for the Indian as well as the global food market.
What’s cooking in the Indian market?
Scientifically-proven or not, the superfoods have been becoming a rage in the Indian food market. Here are a few innovations in the last year that we can’t unsee. In January 2023, Superfoods Valley launched its flagship product, Good Monk, a one-of-a-kind nutrition mix. The product has Superfoods Ashwagandha and Brahmi along with 8 multivitamins, clinically proven probiotics, fibre, lysine, etc. The uniqueness of this nutrition mix is it can be mixed with foods like dal, sambhar, sabzis (dry or gravy), noodles, tomato soup, milk, and curd and the daily foods can still be enjoyed with the same colour, odour, and taste as before mixing.
Commenting on the launch, Amarpreet Singh Anand, Founder, Superfoods Valley, said, “What’s most worrisome is that the urban upper-middle-class households are suffering from lack of proper nutrition in a significant way and it’s not because they lack access to good food, but because of the modern lifestyle and eating habits. So instead of chasing the family to eat nutritiously and continuously suffering from the nutrition gap in their daily diet – we are solving to add health and nutrition to whatever they love to eat. Hence, Good Monk – a product that is designed to fill the nutrition gap among Indian families.”
A similar product with a protein twist has been launched by Mumbai-headquartered Naturell India Pvt. Ltd., the parent company behind Max Protein. Launched in September 2023, Max Protein Roti Mix is a groundbreaking development poised to reshape the landscape of fitness and nutrition in India. This product is designed for those who wish to enrich their traditional meals with the goodness of protein. The Protein Roti Mix provides protein to the daily traditional foods like chapati, puri, paratha, kulcha, dosa, idli, chilla, etc. Every roti made with Roti Mix offers 6 gm of protein – equivalent to 1 egg or 1 glass of milk or 30 gm of Paneer. It enhances texture, incorporates superfood ingredients, and boasts abundant whole-grain goodness, enabling individuals to effortlessly combat protein deficiencies.
Vijay Uttarwar, CEO, Naturell India Pvt. Ltd. reflecting on the innovation, said, “Max Protein Roti Mix bridges the gap between traditional meals and modern nutritional needs, allowing every Indian to enjoy protein-rich diets without altering their culinary preferences.”
Another innovative launch in the superfoods category by India’s largest domestic Spirits company, Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), is Srishti Premium Whisky. This premium whisky has the infusion of the superfood component Curcumin. Research across categories shows that Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to increase the antioxidants that the body produces. Although the company does not make any claim about this with the product, such innovations could be disruptive in the future if dedicated R&D efforts are made.
Goa-based Wakao Foods is another disruptive superfood company making way for innovations with the superfood jackfruit. After the launch of Jackfruit sausages in November 2022, the company came up with the Burger Patty, made with superfood jackfruit. The patty is an excellent source of protein, fibre, and essential spices with 53 per cent jackfruit as the chief ingredient.
The superfood intervention is seen in almost every meal ranging from breakfast to dinner, snacks are not an exception. New Delhi-based snacks brand Cornitos, expanded its dips range with the superfood Avocado. With the superfood dips, Cornitos aims to produce food products that would entice its consumers to snack healthy. Launched in August 2023, Tata Soulfull’s Ragi Bites Choco Sticks are also a great example of superfood snacks invented recently.
Speaking on the launch, Prashant Parameswaran, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tata Consumer Soulfull, said, “With this launch, we aim to increase the accessibility to millet-based products and further strengthen our presence in the kids’ snacking category. The United Nations declaring 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets’, presents an opportunity to increase consumer awareness around millets and make them available to consumers in formats that are convenient and affordable. Tata Soulfull is dedicated to creating innovative millet-based products that align with modern consumer lifestyles.”
Big players in the Millet race
Millets are the talk of the town in superfood, or rather, super grain space. The declaration of the International Year of Millets has taken even leading indian companies by storm.
Nestlé India is incorporating millet as an ingredient to provide consumers with more diverse food options. In line with the government focus on millets, Nestlé India is creating a differentiated food portfolio across brands that promotes millet as a more sustainable food option, through partnerships and product innovations. As a part of this initiative, In September 2023, Nestlé India launched Nestlé a+ Masala Millet that contains bajra and can be eaten as a light meal at any time of the day. It has been developed under the guidance of IIMR (Indian Institute of Millets Research). The company also has Nestlé CEREGROW Grain Selection with ragi, Nestlé MILO Cocoa Malt with bajra and Nestlé KOKO KRUNCH Millet-Jowar breakfast cereals in its portfolio. These products have been launched this year and some in the previous year.
Commenting on the faster adoption of millets, Suresh Narayanan, chairman and managing director, Nestlé India said, “Millets have been associated with India’s agricultural heritage and with 2023 identified as the International Year of Millets, it is only appropriate that it is brought to the forefront with increased awareness and suitable products. I am delighted to announce our ambition to incorporate millets into relevant product categories. We have already introduced millets into some of our products and the launch of Nestlé a+ Masala Millet is another step in that direction.”
In January 2023, Marico, one of India’s leading FMCG companies, launched Saffola Munchiez – a range of tasty yet healthy snacking options. Made from Indian supergrains like Ragi and Makhana, Saffola Munchiez aims to strengthen better-for-you snacking category. The company has rolled out its latest innovation in the ready-to-eat snacks category – Saffola Munchiez Ragi Chips and Saffola Munchiez Roasted Makhana in various flavors.
Speaking about this latest innovation, Sanjay Mishra, chief operating officer – India Business and chief executive officer – New Business, Marico, said, “We observed that an increasing number of consumers are preferring branded snacks over unpackaged snacks range. We recognized a rising demand for healthier snacking options in the packaged snacks segment. We are positive that Saffola Munchiez will address the need for on-the-go healthier snacking options that are better for our diverse consumer base. Our entry into the ready-to-eat snack category will further strengthen our foothold in the healthy and premium foods segment.”
ITC Foods is also not behind in the race of making snacking better-for-you. In May 2023, launched its first millet cookies as part of Sunfeast Farmlite. Earlier this year, ITC launched a dedicated initiative ‘ITC Mission Millet’ powered by a strategic 3 pillar model that encompasses development of a ‘good-for-you’ product portfolio, implementation of sustainable farming systems as well as enhancing consumer awareness on the benefit of millets. Available in two variants – Multi Millet & Choco-chip Multi Millet, the millet cookies are made from a blend of millets, including ragi, jowar (sorghum) and contains no added maida. ITC Foods already offers a range of millet-based products such as Aashirvaad multi-millet mix, Aashirvaad ragi flour, Aashirvaad gluten-free flour etc.
Along with the other breakfast and meal options, breads are also getting fortified with millets nowadays. Britannia, the pioneer of slice bread in India, launched Millet Bread which contains zero added maida. Packed with the goodness of Ragi, Jowar, Bajra, and Oats, it has fiber and minerals that provide consumers with a convenient way to include millet-based options in their meals. With the launch, Britannia becomes the first company in the organized segment to bring Millet Bread into the FMCG market in India.
Commenting on the launch, Rajneet Kohli, chief executive officer, Britannia Industries, said, ‘’As the pioneers in the sliced bread category in India, we’ve always been committed to bringing the latest innovations to our consumers. Bread is a staple diet that is consumed daily by millions of households and served in restaurants and even on flights. With the growing need for guilt-free snacking, there are rising conversations about choosing foods with millet grains for their benefits. We aim to offer an apt solution for our consumers in a category that is highly popular and a staple for several Indian consumers.’’
Bonn Group of Industries, one of the big names in bakery products, joined the Millet bread category in May 2023. The company also launched other bakery products under its category like Millet Pizza and Millet Burger.
The Super Sales bubble
Looking at the increasing market entry of big as well as small players in the superfoods category, we feel safe to say that even if the ‘superfood hype’ has no scientific backing to claim the health benefits of the products, the category will continue to grow for years to come. The difference in the 21st century is that information now spreads at viral speed so that a new superfood seems to appear on a monthly basis. The essentials are in place: scientific research on a particular food, catchy headlines from the fast-paced popular press, as well as infomercials and marketing campaigns of involved food industries.
Millets have already been topping the list in the space, many other superfoods will emerge as ‘food products’ in the near future. ‘Superfoods’, ‘power foods’, ‘top 10 foods’, or ‘food stars’, what we call them in the next 5 years, only time will tell.