Ever since the Covid pandemic brought the whole world to a standstill, health has become a priority for everyone. Normal cough and cold, which were ignored earlier, are a cause of concern just in case it’s something serious. Overall fitness and increased immunity is today’s priority for most.
Over the past two years, the market is flooded with brands offering different healthy, immunity-boosting foods and snacks.
Jamana Mahajan, the co-founder of Satvic Foods, agrees that the pandemic has seen an upward trend in health food Indian brands. “We have also seen a sudden rise in supplements that claim to boost immunity. However, one must remember that they come with direct or indirect side effects. Thus, most Indian brands have started following a holistic approach where spices, peanut butter, immunity kadhas, etc., are made with no chemicals,” Mahajan shares.
In the pre-2020 days health was secondary to everything else. “Pre-pandemic was a phase where health was more reactive than proactive,” reveals Puru Gupta, Co-founder & CEO at True Elements. For Shweta Thakur, Founder and CEO, Wildermart, a Bangalore-based healthy and sustainable grocery store, the healthy consumption trend is not just a trend. “It’s a sort of awakening that people are going through to become more mindful and balanced in their existence, Thakur feels.
“Most would compromise on health for convenience by consuming urban-refined-overly-processed food until Covid targeted the weak and unhealthy. Although healthy and clean brands did exist pre-pandemic, they did not hold as much value as they do today. With the surge of attention to health among consumers, there is also a surge brand who noticed this opportunity,” Gupta adds.
With the surge in demand and supply of health oriented products, the importance of picking the right product and right brand has become more necessary than ever. Akshi Khandelwal, founder, Butterfly Ayurveda, believes only a handful sincerely stick to correct methods. “Healthy food is considered less processed and cultivated from natural or organic soil. It is supposed to be of good quality, developed using a compatible set of ingredients, made within a GMP certified unit, and backed by R&D. Even FSSAI parameters must be met for a food item to be considered edible for consumers; healthy is the next step. When a brand promotes healthy living or develops healthy products, it must have a sense of responsibility towards the consumers to educate them or make them aware of what is truly healthy,” Khandelwal elucidates.
For the brands to be effectively healthy adhering to the said parameters, they constantly need to integrate old and new methods to develop new product formulations. While some see this as a costly affair, some like Anamika Pandey, Founder, Naario, look at this as a brilliant business opportunity.
The change is attitude in all generations, especially the GenZ is what has affected the market the most. Khandelwal foresees teenage students grabbing an energy bar over energy drinks or going for freshly cut fruit bowls or vegetables. “During COVID, people moved away from fast food and chose whole meals, freshly prepared food. However, this may gradually translate into choosing freshly prepared packaged food. It, in no way, implies that this is a healthier option,” Khandelwal says.
But is this just a fad or a lifelong choice that many are making? It’s difficult to say since many give into peer pressure and it ends up being a ‘my friend is doing it, so even I am’ thing!
“For most of the last decade, many initiatives have leveraged on Fads. The last two years have transformed some of these fads into trends. They are things that are here to stay at least for more than a few years,” Gupta says.
Pandey admits that she belongs to the generation that was high on aerated beverages, but has moved to a Turmeric Latte thanks to the pandemic. She is happily pleased when her grandfather gifted her a book called Yoga Aur Bhojana Dwara Rogon Ka Ilaaj. “This is was an ultimate recognition of my work,” Pandey avers.
Eyes on the future
Till today, heath bars and health food market, even in India, was ruled by MNCs. However, in the past five to seven years, Indian brands have mushroomed everywhere. And the pandemic has given them the necessary boost.
Mahajan is sure that Indian brands will rule the market by following a holistic path of product development. “Everyone wants to stay healthy. And our Indian heritage is full of such ways that have a proven record of improving health and lifestyle. In most metro cities, we have started seeing a sudden rise of restaurants and cafes that offer homegrown coffees, tea, and other spices,” Mahajan explains.
Amarnath Halember, Executive Director & CEO, NextG Apex India Pvt Ltd, who launched their Made-in-India nutritious ready breakfast and healthy food range — Mamafeast, says, “So, Indian consumers are choosing natural and traditional immunity-boosting remedies to fortify their health over health supplement capsules. Technavio’s newest research shows how boosted by new product launches and existing trends, the Ayurveda market will see a 79% market growth from Asia alone from 2022-2026, set to grow by USD 6.81 billion at a CAGR of 15.32%.”
Thakur sees some challenges. She feels individual transformations will happen at different speeds. “First, there is too much health information floating everywhere today. Everyone thinks of themselves as authorities. What may work for you may not work for me. There are some core guiding principles. Given that, people should connect with their bodies and listen to them. The second is health-washing. To tap into the current ‘health trends’, many are creating products that meet some health requirements. But they skip the others. By advertising the parts that sell, they are doing a disservice to the health of their consumers. The third issue is of is pricing. Better ingredients cost more. Hand making takes more time. People need to get ready to pay a little more if they want the best,” she explains.
With the numerous lockdowns and the rising mental and physical health issues, many want to shift to a healthy lifestyle. That includes healthier diet choices. The era of eating right and choosing healthier brands has arrived.