Increasing health awareness has led to a noticeable shift in the attitude of people towards healthier food alternatives. Consumers are becoming more proactive in finding ways for ensuring better health and overall well being, with the result that the Indian market is witnessing a growing demand for fortified premium foods.
It is hardly surprising then that both Indian and international manufactures of health based food products are finding a ready market for their products given the growing consciouness and demand. In fact, these companies are targetting the increasingly prosperous middle class consumers who are recording the highest consumption of calcium supplements, foods for cholesterol control, diabetes, heart care, etc.
These consumers are now better informed about the inadequacy of a `normal` diet, nutrient losses during food processing and cooking, and of what constitutes an ‘unhealthy diet’. They are checking out functional foods, and fortified or enriched foods on retailer shelves that will prevent the onset of any deficiency or illness. This concern is also being driven by the escalating cost of medical care, given the surge in chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, etc, due to changing lifestyles and eating habits. They are also seriously reading the labelling on food packs for information on the ingredients, nutrients, and their health benefits. Preventive Healthcare
Retailers are stacking their shelves with a variety of health foods (also termed as functional foods) such as soy protein, omega 3, green tea, etc, as consumers are opting for food supplements over medicines. Dabur, Cadbury, Britannia, and some pharmaceutical companies have diversified into production of health foods, nutraceuticals, and dietary supplements. They have also raised awareness of the benefits of such products in helping to reduce the risk or onset of chronic diseases. Conventional, healthy grains are now being processed to make healthier variants, and even taking into account consumer`s ease and convenience. For instance, “Britannia Healthy Start” range of ready-to-cook breakfast mixes of upmas, pohas, porridges and oats contain multiple-grains, pulses, nuts, all in single packs. A ‘Homemade’ section includes ready-to-cook breakfast cereals made from ragi, dalia rice flakes and semolina made by local small scale industries. Wholesome Breakfast
To meet the needs of different age groups, Kellog`s, one of the largest players in the Indian breakfast cereal market, has launched chocolate coated wheat scoops “Chocos” and sugar coated “Frosties”. For adults there are wheat flakes, rice flakes, rice crispies, etc. “Kellogg’s special K” also promises weight management. Kellogg’s All Bran, a 100 percent whole wheat ready-to-eat cereal has high amount of fiber, which helps in the smooth functioning of the digestive system. All of these products are fortified with essential nutrients. Quaker and Bagrry’s dominate the oat-based breakfast cereals, which come with the goodness of soluble fiber-Beta Glucan for a health heart. Muesli offers a tastier alternative with whole grains, nuts, fruits, berries, honey etc, in a variety of combinations.Protein Supplements
In India (especially in the southern states), intake of one of the macro-nutrients – protein - has been below the recommended levels. As a result, a wide range of protein supplements have been introduced in the market. Proteins are primarily required for basic functions like growth and maintenance; production of enzymes, hormones, antibodies; building tissues and muscles, etc.To fulfil these functions various products are being formulated keeping in mind the age groups, varied conditions, and different lifestyles. Since proteins cannot be stored by the body, they have to be consumed as foods every day.
Brands like “Protinex” by Wockhardt has different products for children, adults, pregnant mothers, lactating women and diabetics. “Protinex Junior” contains DHA for brain, and FOS (fructo-oligo-saccharide, a prebiotic ) for immunity, and 37 vital nutrients. Another popular supplement for children is “Pediasure” by Abbott. These supplements are fortified with multiple vitamins and minerals to meet additional demands. They are also fortified with antioxidants, and some with phyto-nutrients, to prevent oxidative damage of the body cells. British Biologicals has a nutritional supplement for various vulnerable groups.
To address widespread vitamin D deficiency, Cadbury’s has launched the new Bournvita fortified with vitamin D. Amway India Enterprises has launched a range of children’s nutrition products under its global brand `Nutrilite`. These include chewable calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, chewable fruit & vegetable, multivitamin–mineral, and a fruit flavored drink mix. All these products are designed to supplement the lack of a well-balanced diet.Fortification With Vitamins and Minerals
Foods and beverages that are fortified with vitamins A, D, iron, calcium, etc, are now accepted forms that are perceived to offer health benefits.There is a growing market for protein supplements for athletes, body builders, and young buys keen on building their physique at a rapid pace. Products include supplements of whey protein, pure amino acid, pure glutamine powders, creatine monohydrate, etc. All these supplements contain any one or a combination of protein sources such as whey protein, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, whole egg powder, casein, albumin/ egg white concentrate, beef gluten or wheat gluten, and some are also fortified with vitamins.
Malted powdered supplements are considered as ‘superfoods’ for children since they provide instant energy as they are fortified with proteins, vitamins and minerals. Examples include Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita, Milo and Complan. Many companies are also extending their malted beverage brands to cater to the health needs of the entire family and not just the children. Variants like Complan ‘Family Lite’, does not have any added fat, cholesterol, added sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Specific function based claims are also made in brand extensions such as ‘Complan Memory’ and ‘Complan Immunity’.Managing Weight
Protein supplements also play a crucial role in weight loss or as meal replacers. Making one feel satiateds sooner, and thus curbing the urge to eat often is a strategy used in weight management products. These products are usually in the form of dry powders to be reconstituted to make protein shakes or bars. Examples include Positrim from Amway, Formula 1 Nutritional Shakes from Herbalife, and Getrim by Satva. Getrim contains soluble fiber derived from fenugreek and oats that slow down the digestion of food, and give a feeling of fullness.
DSM, a global ingredient manufacturer, has formulated Fabuless™ whose microstructure prevents its digestion until the product is relatively deep in the small intestine. Since undigested fat arriving in the ileum triggers an `appetite satisfied` signal to the brain, the consumer tends to eat less. Fabuless is being used in soups, in meal replacement shakes, and in beverages. This ingredient is being used in ‘SlimLife’ of British Nutritions as a powdered supplement. Besides weight loss or weight management products, protein supplements can also form a basis for weight gain for consumers who are eager to increase their weight. Health in Beverages
Non-dairy beverages like fruit juices, soy drinks, and different varieties of tea also offer added health benefits. The major shift toward health in juices can be seen in products like Dabur’s Real, and in Pepsico’s Tropicana 100% which offer juices without added sugar, artificial colours or preservatives in tetra packs. Dabur’s Real is fortified with antioxidants like Vit C, Vit A, etc. Dabur‘s Real Activ Fiber + is enriched with dietary fiber "resistant maltodextrin" which can help in managing weight, keep the digestive system healthy, and enhance fullness. In the soy beverage category, Godrej Hershey’s “Sofit” Soymilk is a source of proteins, vitamins, fiber, and enriched with calcium. “Kissan Fruit and Soya” by Hindustan Unilever is a blend of fruit juice and soy milk.Low in fat
Within the milk and milk products category, low fat milk is considered healthier since it contains the essential nutrients, and the milk fat present is in very small amounts. Low fat milk can be consumed by every body, including diabetics, heart patients, and the obese. Examples of such products include Amul and Nestle-Slim Milk, available in tetrapacks, the low fat probiotic Fresh & Natural Slim Curd “Nesvita” from Nestle, and flavoured yoghurt by Danone fortified with immune boosting nutrients like iron, zinc, iodine and Vitamin A.Trans-Fat
There is a noticeable shift by the food industry to low or no trans-fat products. Conventionally, bakery and confectionary items are prepared using hydrogenated fats which contain trans fats, but companies like Britannia has made its entire NutriChoice biscuit range completely free of trans-fats. NutriChoice Diabetic Friendly Essentials are made from oats and ragi, and do not contain added sugar. They are also fortified with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which improves glycemic control and is recommended for diabetics. No Sugar
The ‘No added Sugar’ trend is being observed not only in juices but also in biscuits, cakes, cookies, candies, chewing gums, etc. Products are being sweetened using new age sweeteners like Sucralose, Maltitol, Xylotol, Erythriol, FOS (Fructo-oligo-saccharide), etc. These sugar substitutes are stable, versatile, and safe. Besides reducing calories, they also offer benefits like oral hygiene, provide a prebiotic substrate, and enhance immunity. Another example is of Stevia Life, a non-caloric herb from Stevia Biotech, which acts as a natural sweetener and flavor enhancer. Health in Ingredients
Consumers are willing to pay a premium for snacks and beverages, whose perceived value is boosted by their association with healthy ingredients. Moreover, the growing middle class in India who can now afford to pay more, is driving the industry to cater to this demand for healthy premium products. Various ingredient companies are launching innovative products, for instance, multi-national ingredient supplier DSM offers a range of ‘Health Benefit Solutions’. Promotion of such products is also changing from mere advertising to greater in-store information being provided to consumers. Probiotics
Good bacteria within the gastrointestinal system are now scientifically proven to confer numerous health benefits such as improving digestion and increasing immunity. In the international markets, probiotic consumption through supplements as well as foods has become fairly common. With the introduction of ‘Yakult’ probiotic drink from Danone, and with several national brands such as Amul and Nestle launching ‘probiotic yoghurt, probiotic based food products are fast catching up in India too.Convenience
The last 10 years has seen a transformation in the Indian food market owing to changing liestyles, greater expectations from modern retailers, increasing demand for quality and more options from a wider range of product offerings. Nuclear families, urbanization, more and more women going out to work, is changing the way food is being consumed. Convenience in food preparation and consumption is one such demand. This has given rise to a tremendous growth in ready-to-eat, heat-and-eat, on-the-go meals and ready-to-cook products. With advances in food preservation and processing technology, such packaged food items are now readily available to consumers, who can now find frozen parathas, upmas, curries, cooked meat preparations, etc, at retailer shelves. Boosting Beauty
Beyond the direct health benefit categories, there are indirect benefits offered too. Certain ingredients like lutein, lycopene, green tea that are consumed through foods and supplements can help reduce the damaging effects of the sun’s rays, pollution, etc, on the skin and thus reduce the skin ageing process. Internationally, comapneis are offering beverages and food supplements with ingredients that boost both the health and beauty of the consumers. Priti Mohile is Director - MediaMedic Communications - a Healthcare Advertising and PR firm