Health conscious Indians seek innovative food and drink

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition India

Consumers in India are placing increasing priority on healthy food and beverage products, according to Datamonitor, and they’re keen to see innovative products that cater to their concerns.

According to the market researcher the Indian packaged food and beverage market was worth around $21.5bn in 2009, and has seen solid annual growth over the last five years. Health and wellness foods made up $725m of this.

Health campaigners and academics have expressed concern about the negative health implications of consumers in Asian countries switching away from traditional diets towards more Westernised ways of eating. Prosperity tends to be accompanied by a desire to consume more animal products (meat and milk), as well as sugary and fatty foods – which is seen to contribute to rising obesity rates. This tendency has been dubbed the ‘nutrition transition’.

In 2005/6 9.3 per cent of adult men in India were obese or overweight, and 12.6 per cent of women.

But Datamonitor consultant Rohul Ashok, who authored a new report called Consumer Trends in India: Health and Wellness Foods and Beverages, believes lessons are being headed from expanding waistlines.

“Over the last decade, the demand for health foods in India has been fuelled by the increasing incidence of lifestyle-related diseases, economic uncertainty and the awareness created through the media,” ​he said. This demand has now gathered enough steam to create a sustained impact on the consumers’ desire to eat healthy.”

He has observed an increasing tendency to avoid junk food and opt for fresh food instead. Indeed, some 62 per cent of Indian consumers in a recent survey said their purchasing choices were impacted by freshness claims even on processed food and beverages.

Health claims

In addition to avoiding junk foods, Indians are also paying attention to their nutritional intake, and it is most often women who take responsibility for ensuring the products her family eats deliver the nutrients needed.

This, according to Ashok, means marketing is all important. “At this juncture, companies would have to focus on creating descriptive package-literature/graphics linked to nutritional information and health claims, as this is going to play the most significant role in consumer’s purchase decisions.”

He warned, however, that the Indian market has suffered as a result of unsubstantiated health claims used by companies to gain an unfair advantage in the market – so much so that consumers are now wary even of legitimate claims.

“Lack of stringent regulations regarding advertising and marketing of FMCG products have held back the market from growing to its full potential. Therefore, it is imperative for the manufacturers to seek ways to add credibility to their health claims in order to reduce the consumer skepticism in future.”

Related topics Market Trends

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