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The Health Food Market Booms in India

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The budding health foods market in India is poised to register significant growth with major food companies proactively tapping into the rapidly growing product categories in this segment.

Food consumption patterns and preferences are undergoing significant changes all over the world. Due to an ever-evolving lifestyle, a growing awareness of quality, and the increasing incidence of food-heart-related diseases like diabetics, and obesity consumers worldwide are showing an interest in a preventive lifestyle rather than a curative approach. ‘Eat Healthy, Live Healthy’ is the widely accepted mantra for living a good life in today’s times. It is not surprising, therefore, that the health and wellness movement has been on the radar of major food companies who are proactively tapping into the rapidly growing product categories in this market.

In a huge and diverse country like India, this trend is relevant in two radically different ways; while a large part of rural India suffers from malnutrition and seeks foods that supplements basic minerals like iodine, and iron, and other nutrients like Vitamin A, a lot of people in urban India suffer from lifestyle-related disorders such as obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, and seek solace in low fat, low sugar, and low cholesterol products.

The health foods sector is at a budding stage in India and is poised to register significant growth in the years to come. This market was worth Rs 9,000 crore in 2010 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent to Rs 22,500 crore by 2015.

The need to be healthy is driving the initiative towards product innovations for many F&B players. While the dairy and juice categories have been leaders in processed foods, and have seen an influx of probiotic, mineral-fortified, zero fat, high-fibre variants, etc, the restaurant industry has also started innovating to woo health-conscious consumers. Oatmeal is a familiar example of a functional food that has been widely accepted because it naturally contains soluble fibre that can help lower cholesterol levels. Similarly, many restaurants now regularly offer whole wheat pastas and pizzas, multi-grain/whole wheat breads, and low-sugar desserts. Products such as probiotics and prebiotics are gaining popularity and encouraging food service industry operators to incorporate such functional and nutritional foods in their product lines.

The convenience food industry will continue to grow, and grow healthier, because it conveys a service to consumers in terms of time, ease of use, and accessibility. Low calorie foods will attain front row positioning due to increasing concern about obesity and an aging population. Concepts like whole foods and super foods (foods whose valuable properties have been identified by science, such as antioxidants) will occupy key areas in the mainstream consumer market. Although soft drinks and dairy categories currently dominate the preferences of modern consumers as well as the penetration of leading brands, there is a growing appreciation for foods that boost energy levels. These products have attributes that can be felt quickly by the consumer, which has been the major contributor towards their popularity.

The market for healthy foods is poised to grow at a faster pace thanks to the growing awareness and the lifestyle shift within the urban population. Additionally, any new developments in the personal care/health and fitness genre will play an important role as they will be driving key interventions that will effectively change the dynamics for future health-food products.

About the Authors

Reteesh Shukla is Associate Director and Akshay Mallick is Principal , Food Services & Agriculture, .