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Dr Vivek Srivastav March 01 , 2015
India is the most potential market for nutraceuticals and dietary supplement products. The burgeoning affluent middle-class population in the country is increasingly becoming health-conscious. The awareness about the positive impact of using nutraceuticals and dietary supplements is the new phenomenon among the young Indians.

In India nearly 400 million people belong to the middle-class and have the disposable income which made them capable to buy nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. It is an inevitable fact that affluence is one of the causes of lifestyle diseases, which nutraceuticals and dietary supplements often address.

Over the past five years (2008-2012), the Indian Nutraceuticals Market has been growing at a rapid pace. The Indian Nutraceuticals market is the fastest growing sector among other sectors of Indian food and pharmaceuticals market and even with the lowest per capita GDP in the BRIC regions, India is poised to overtake China as the most populous country (also with the largest number of undernourished children in the world), and represents an extremely favourable market for the growth of nutraceuticals. At population levels like ours combined with income disparities, the need for nutrition arises in each strata of our society. While approximately 42% of all

Indian children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition, nearly 300 million people are part of an expanding middle class. The middle class level, with increased disposable incomes has become aware of the importance of diet and nutrition for long term good health. “Healthy habits need to start young. Only an appropriate blend of micro/ macro nutrients in our diet can help us break through the health deficit” feels Rajiv Chopra, President, DSM India. An increasing working age population presents a market opportunity for development and marketing of Nutraceuticals. Some key emerging trends in the Indian Nutraceutical space are set out below:
  • Focus on wellness and preventive care
  • Increased awareness and health consciousness
  • Growth currently driven by the functional food and beverages segment.
  • Health and wellness yet to reach the fat and oils segment
  • Increased accessibility through new distribution channels and greater visibility (example infant and sports nutrition)
  • A large diabetic population (similar to Brazil and China)
  • Vitamins used in several food fortifications
  • Mass market retailing is just getting off ground in India with FDI approvals and can represent a great way to market the nutraceuticals.
  • One third of the population being vegetarian, protein supplements in the form of soya/ rice/ others can assume great significance.
  • Flavoured powdered milk fortified with vitamins and minerals is a recent trend. In other parts of the country, milk scarcity drives soya and skimmed milk demand
Both India and China have traditional remedies and healing systems such as Ayurveda and TCM which form the centre stage in terms of a tried and tested from of medicine with identifiable herb compounds. Dietary supplement regulations in India continue to evolve leaving many wondering how emerging legislation will reconcile modern, corporate research and regulations with ancient traditions.

Because nutraceuticals are not a part of pharmaceuticals and drugs formulation, rules and regulations also tend to be different for this segment. Indian government has recently implemented the FSSAI regulations (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) although implementation parameters are not clearly understood by all in the industry and are being explored.

But challenges remain, as poor infrastructure, lack of adequate facilities for storage, transportation and cold storage facilities continue to hinder growth. And while the Indian regulators have worked to improve the regulatory framework, there is still plenty of confusion around rules, regulations and licensing for a variety of different commodities. India can be viewed both as a developer and manufacturer of nutraceutical ingredients and products, and as a strong emerging market for nutraceuticals.

India’s Market & Health
The global nutraceutical market in 2008 was estimated to be $117 billion, of which India’s share was only 0.9%. The global market is estimated to reach $177 billion by next year, growing at a healthy CAGR of 7%. With increasing penetration of preventative healthcare products in the Indian market, growing health awareness, higher disposable income and other factors, the Indian nutraceutical industry has shown a promising CAGR of 18% in the last three years. According to one report, the total Indian nutraceutical market in 2015 is expected to be roughly $5 billion. Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, and pharmaceutical companies are major players in Indian nutraceutical market.

The world’s largest democracy, India has diverse problems when it comes to the healthcare sector. On one hand, the health problems related to malnutrition are still widespread. In India, nearly 20% of the adult population and 44% of young children under the age of five were found to be undernourished, according to 2009 Ernst & Young data). On the other hand, a sizable population has higher than recommended calories intake, but often inadequate nutrient intake, and are hence considered to be “overfed but undernourished.” Today diabetes rates remain high. According to International Diabetes Federation reports, there were more than 55 million people with diabetes in 2010. At this rate, by 2025 one out of every two diabetics in the world will be Indian. Similarly, with changing dietary patterns, there has been a surge in the number of people suffering from obesity. This trend is more worrisome in school-aged children. In fact, according to a study published in 2011, more than 15 million children would be overweight and 4 million abdominally obese in urban India. Growth Factors

With the major nutraceutical markets like Japan and the U.S. reaching maturity, manufacturers are looking at India with great interest. With the world’s second largest population, increasing disposable income and greater health awareness, India is becoming a major market for nutritional companies. There is a definite shift in the Indian health system. What was until now based on sick care, has begun to move toward preventive care due to rising costs. With growing penetration of media, the accessibility and awareness of preventive healthcare products has definitely increased.

Knowledge of Ayurveda, the traditional medical modality in India for several thousand years, is also one of the growth factors. Though the traditional medicines in Ayurveda, and other ancient medical philosophies, Unani and Siddhi, have been left out of the definition of nutraceuticals in the Food Safety and Standards Act, these traditional systems can play a substantial role in the nutraceutical market. Customized formulations using conventional delivery systems (capsules, tablets, gels, syrups) using Ayurvedic herbs and supplements can be one way manufacturers may provide consumers the best of both the worlds. Because of consumer’s cultural familiarity with these medical systems, they are predisposed to accept and trust herbal and food based remedies.

India’s Future
At present, functional foods have the largest share of the Indian nutraceutical market, followed by dietary supplements. This is an interesting trend that will drive the market for fortified foods and probiotics. With increasing occurrence of obesity in urban Indians, weight management products will also be in high demand. Similarly anti-diabetic, blood glucose balance and cholesterol management products will become popular.

Sports supplements such as rehydration drinks and whey protein supplements represent another major market. The recent successful Indian launch of SamiDirect’s LeanGard protein mix, which contains a unique “digestive intolerance blend” to increase the digestibility of whey protein, is one example of an emerging trend. With the current health scenario, dietary supplements designed to provide digestive support, joint support and cardiovascular health will also do well in the future.

With the opening of the Indian market to foreign brands, there will be healthy competition. New product innovations, strict quality control and proper labeling and advertising can help consumers choose the right products. Currently, the FSSA does not allow health claims on functional foods, supplements or nutraceuticals. However, it will be important to see if the Indian regulatory body will allow health claims based on scientific data for nutraceuticals as the market grows. This could follow the same line as Japan’s Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU), which is composed of functional ingredients that affect the structure/function of the body and are used to maintain specific health conditions.

Overall, the Indian nutraceutical market is emerging with strong growth potential. With escalating health awareness, and the shift toward preventative health care and increased regulatory clarity, India’s future looks promising, for both manufacturers and consumers.    m

(The author is chief scientific officer, Zeon Lifesciences Ltd., Noida, Uttar Pradesh. He can be contacted at

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