Modern lifestyle is increasing the health consciousness among consumers creating new health food categories and triggering a rise in the sale of health products. One of the most recent entrant is probiotics, which made its debut in the Indian market in 2007. While the category has been present in the international market for decades, in India it is at a very nascent stage. Although growing at a steady pace over the last few years, the category seems to have a lot more potential than what is made out to be.
Currently, most of the probiotics products available are predominantly dahi and a few probiotic beverages. The category was introduced to Indian consumers in 2007, when Amul launched its probiotic ice-creams. Soon after, leading dairy manufacturers rushed to get a piece of the probiotic pie by launching probiotic dahis and beverages. The year also saw the entry of the Japenese giant Yakult Honsha, whose Yakult brand is sold in over 32 countries; more than 30 million bottles are sold in a day.
In India, Yakult was launched in 2007 and is being sold through a 50:50 JV between the French company Groupe Danone and the Japanese Yakult Honsha. Yakult is available in both traditional and modern trade.
Milk and dairy products manufacturer Mother Dairy, launched its probiotic b-Activ curd and lassi in 2007. In 2008 the company expanded the range with the introduction of a fermented milk beverage called Nutrifit in two flavours – mango and strawberry.
Nestle brings out a probiotic dahi called Actiplus dahi. According to the company, every 100g serve of the dahi has over 100 crore probiotics , which help the digestive system if consumed daily. The company also claims that the dahi is 98% fat free.
Amul has the most extensive range of probiotics which include probiotic curd, lassi, frozen yoghurt and buttermilk, and it is the only company in India to make probiotic ice-creams as well.
For most retailers, the category contributes a minuscule percentage of the sales. Along with the lack of adequate number of cold chain and storage facilities, lack of marketing initiatives and a higher pricing for probiotic products has added to the low sales. Retailers feel that the category could grow if there was more marketing initiatives and awareness campaigns undertaken by the brands.
Marketing initiatives like those undertaken by Yakult has helped in raising the popularity of the products among consumers. Yakult adopted direct marketing apart from regular TVC’s and print advertisements to connect with consumers.
For Amul, introducing probiotic variants of the popular products already present in the market, has helped in increasing awareness.
But most retailers feel that the marketing initiatives undertaken by manufacturers are inadequate, which is restraining the category from achieving its full potential. Retailers also feel that in-store promotions would bring greater focus on the category.
Even with a lot of optimism, some experts raise doubts about the growth potential of the category. An industry expert also attributes the slow growth to the cultural differences between the the western countries and India. According to him, dahi is part of the daily diet in India, and is made easily at home,. But in many western countries yoghurt/curd is a specialty bought from supermarkets, so consumers look for them more actively as compared to Indian consumers who do not feel the need to pay more for such products.
Also, the growth of probiotics seems high because of the small base of consumers. If it is counted along with the growth of dahi, the growth percent of probiotics is negligible.
Probiotics are live strains of bacteria which according to various research helps in improving digestion, gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and in regulating the bowel movement. Studies have also highlighted other benefits of probiotics like in controlling allergies, urogenital infections and in maintaining generic health. Probiotics in India generally come in two forms – milk and fermented milk products with the former constituting a major chunk of the market.