Demand for immunity boosters: A shot in arm for nutrition and supplement product market

Spurred by COVID-19 fear and heightened interest in preventative health, sales of vitamins, minerals, and herbal nutritional supplements have spiked. While nations juggle to find a preventive cure for COVID-19, consumers are increasingly looking for information on health related portals. Here’s how Indian manufacturers are capturing this dynamic opportunity.

Demand for Immunity Boosters

Replenish your body by eating right is a newly emerged trend during  pandemic times. Niharika Sharma, a homemaker’s ration list includes numerous immunity boosting products. She now shops online at least four times a month and it includes products such as Chyawanprash, honey, vitamin supplements, and edible oil with added minerals. Furthermore, she has developed a habit of reading labels to see nutrients list.  

As wellness becomes priority, Indians are constantly searching for immunity related products on internet. A Google report highlights that queries in this category are mostly pivoted towards immunity boosting  products at least by 500 per cent. While nations juggle to find a preventive  cure for COVID-19, consumers are looking for information on health related portals which has lead to a surge in demand for immunity boosting dietary supplements.   

As of early June, 80 per cent of global consumers claim that they  were extremely wary of contracting the pathogen. Further according to GlobalData’s COVID-19 tracker consumer survey, 23 per cent of  customers admitted to stockpiling or buying significantly more vitamins and supplements than ever. Among Indian consumers this ratio stands out at 85 per cent, as per Mintel Research.  

Speaking about this new trend, actress turned Wellness Entrepreneur,  Pooja Bedi tells, “There is an increasing awareness among people that immunity is the key to build resistance against bacterial and viral infections in human body. I therefore think that it is important  for people to use the ease of vitamin supplements to compensate their nutritional deficiencies and needs.”  

Pooja’s e-commerce startup Happy Soul is providing multi-vendor products that lead to a healthy lifestyle. As pandemic highlighted the need to enhance our immunity, manufacturers in the sector also became pro-active to capitalise this opportunity. Dabur’s immunity portfolio has been witnessing a sharp rise. The range of one of its products, Chyawanprash  has witnessed a seven fold jump in sales with a stark growth of 694 per cent.  

In addition to this, the range of Dabur Honey grew by 60 per cent while Honitus grew over 80 per cent. The company has also launched ‘Immunity at your doorstep’ initiative, introducing special vans to deliver goods direct to consumers. Similarly, other nutritional brands despite  slumps during initial lockdown are now witnessing a significant growth for immunity portfolio products. A premium nutrition brand Steadfast which particularly caters to athletes and wellness enthusiasts is seeing a great spike in the sales.  

Aman Puri, Founder of the brand claims, “Yes, the demand has increased drastically and Steadfast is coping with it very well. We had planned  before in such a way that whenever there is an increase in demand, production can be increased to serve the customers. Till now, we have been successful in doing that.” He further tells that the initial months of lockdown beginning in April had registered a negative growth.  

But, the outbreak of pandemic instantly became shot in the arm for sales. He says, “In April, our sales came down to 10 per cent of the total sales of our previous month. This was because of poor dispatch of products through courier services which were halted at that time. However, we have witnessed a 25-30 per cent increase in sales month by month since May.”  

Alok Kohli, Business Director at DSM India tells about Nu-Shakti,  a new brand of Royal DSM. It is a global purpose-led company which has developed a range of daily home food fortifiers formulated with essential vitamins and minerals to meet the nutritional requirements of urban and rural consumers seeking healthier lifestyles.  

He proclaims, “It has been designed to support better nutrition in India by increasing the power (Shakti) of everyday foods.” Since its launch in September 2019, the brand has received an encouraging response for products within six months. Kohli claims the brand has garnered 34 per cent awareness and 41 per cent ad reach.  

Infographic1-Demand for Immunity Boosters

Though COVID-19 has impacted supplies and manufacturing of various products, the brand remains hopeful to bounce back progressively in different districts and cities in the coming weeks as restrictions are being eased, informs Kohli.  

Increase in the Demand of Vitamins 

A surge in the demand could be partially attributed to consumer’s nature of self-diagnosing and increased awareness about vitamin C, D, Giloy and  Kadha, especially during current timesHence, manufacturers along these value chains are experiencing an immense pull-through.  

Divij Bajaj Founder and CEO, Power Gummies asserts that consumer  awareness activities have increased to a large extent during the pre-COVID 19 era. This made consumers understand the importance of nutrition in the body. In the current scenario, consumers are seeking more benefits from the health supplements than merely enhancing immunity.    

He further adds, “Many did not know the significance of vitamin C earlier  in the body. But lately, Vitamin C’s market has grown up significantly. Vitamin C has also been searched for increasingly on internet during this time and similar are statistics for other nutrients. Therefore, I feel that this category will continue to grow at a very rapid pace.”  

Similarly, COVID-19 has also helped chewable Power Gummies by Aesthetic Nutrition Pvt. Ltd in registering a positive revenue growth. According to Bajaj, the sales from January to July are surprisingly doubled. He adds, “We plan our projection of revenues in our annual budget and we have achieved 30 per cent more growth than what was projected. This was purely because of changed attitudes of people towards the significance of nutrition.” 

Prevalence of Innovation in Health Products   

Earlier, nutrition and supplement marketing was focused on promoting a  specific ingredient that addresses one consumer health need. For instance, Omega 3 fatty-acids in vegetable oils was meant for heart’s health and ginseng in Revital capsules was meant for daily energy. Now that the perspective of food supplements has changed for consumers, people are adding more supplemental products along with their diet and want more from it than just nutrition.  

They now clearly understand that vitamin C is not the only source of boosting immunity, but other nutrients are of equal importance in human body. This trend has hence introduced new immune products such as Haldi Doodh from Amul to breads with turmeric and black pepper from Bonn. ITC’s B Natural and Amway India have collaborated to launch the first of its kind immunity boosting B Natural+ fruit beverage range in India. 

Other brands are also coming up with new immunity boosting products which are attracting consumers. Steadfast has launched  HerbFizz which is a blend of nine organic herbs with probiotics in an effervescent tablet. Puri informs, “HerbFizz was one of the highest selling products for us in June, July, and August. It has been doing well since then due to the current market scenario.”  

Power Gummies makers are currently working on more than 40 products  which are in R&D stage. Telling more about these products, Bajaj tells, “We have plans to launch immunity booster gummies, pro-biotic gummies, and  period pain-relief gummies, something that we are extremely passionate  about.”

In addition to this, consumers also need an evidence-based approach of what they can do to prevent COVID. The most important factor in that equation is enhancing immunity. Consumers hence are increasingly seeking an unconventional medical approach with many trying for ayurveda and  homeopathy for the first time. 

In addition, Biogetica a conglomerate of doctors, scientists and healers from numerous traditions are constantly conducting clinical trials to develop  COVID-19 preventives in collaboration with Wockhardt Foundation. The trial is one of its kinds where herbal medicine is being studied against pharmaceutical controls for novel coronavirus.  

Founder of Biogetica, Apurve Mehra elaborates, “We created Immunofree, which combines our old antiviral research and patents with the latest COVID research to create a multi-faceted remedy for this unprecedented time. Currently, it is just in its clinical trial phase but it is one its kind where a natural remedy is being developed in adherence with the government’s  SOP.” 


Power Diet and Ayurveda Back in Vogue   

India represents the world’s largest vegetable-eating consumer group with 26 per cent vegetarian population. However, there was a significant gap between this awareness before the outbreak of coronavirus. DSM India’s recent Diet Paradox survey reveals that there is a big gap between awareness and action in India as far as intake of proper nutrition is concerned.    

The report reveals that more than half of respondents (55 per cent)  admitted to not eating a leafy vegetable the previous day. On the hand, 57 per cent of them claimed that they did not consume dairy or milk products.  Despite being aware of the right quantity of fruits to eat daily, more than one in three respondents (almost 42 per cent) did not happen to  consume these.  

But, a sea change in the diet habits of Indians has been witnessed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. There is now a growing urge among people to build stronger immunity and with this they have become more concerned about what they are eating. Therefore, a significant increase has been registered in sales of chemical and preservative free packaged products.   

Zappfresh, an online product delivery platform, is hence witnessing an increase in purchase of near organic fresh meat and ready-to-eat (RTE)  products. Deepanshu Manchanda, Founder and CEO, Zappfresh says, “We have seen a two fold increase in the meat demand from fresh-farm.  Consumers are enquiring more about the source of meat and process follows. We are hence researching for newer products which resonate with new-age health conscious consumers.”  

As researchers closely evaluate the evidence of nutrient based interventions with special emphasis on respiratory infections, people are relying more on traditional herbs and ayurvedic medicines. Several studies suggest that Ayurvedic herbs are powerful in building immunity, strengthening, and repairing our body. 

The Ayurvedic system of medicines goes beyond a curative treatment and emphasises on maintaining healthy eating habits and lifestyle. Observing this, Ayush ministry of Indian government is promoting plant-based food choices and timely eating guidelines for consumers. These include measures such as drinking warm water and herbal tea (kadha) with a concoction of tulsi (Indian basil), dalchini (cinnamon), kalimirch (black pepper), and shunthi (dry ginger).  

Commercially, Ayurveda is a Rs 30,000 crore industry in India. During pre-covid era, this market registered just 15-20 per cent growth annually.  But, the last quarter witnessed growths between 50-90 per cent for many enterprises. Market leaders in this segment such as DaburBaidyanath group and Patanjali  have been popularising Ayurveda with its herbal medicine portfolio.  

Himalaya Drug Company confirmed a significant increase in the demand for immunity and wellness products. Such products contain pure herbs such as guduchi, tulsi, amalaki, ashwagandha among others along with propriety formulations such as Himalaya Drug Company’s Septilin  and Immusante.  

Kapiva Ayurveda, an Ayurvedic food startup in the sector has also  observed specific demand increase in immunity boosting herbal supplements like tulsi giloy juice and amla juice. Its co-founder Ameve  Sharma claims, “We have scaled rapidly with over 3 times increase in monthly revenue from March 2019 to March 2020. Ayurvedic nutrition is one of the crucial developments the world witnesses now and it is the new normal.” 

He further adds that the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts the global nutritional supplements market to achieve a jaw-dropping $13 trillion by 2025. According to their current evaluations, they expect to cross Rs. 300 crores revenue in 5 years.  

Road Ahead for Industry of Dietary Supplements  

People are now open for intake of supplements for general wellness rather than consuming the medicinal solutions just for curing ailments. Although there is no significant data on the effects of nutritional supplements against the coronavirus, medical experts just know that these supplements increase overall immunity and replenish the body with vital ingredients.  

As the industry is evolves unpredictably, it also opens multiple avenues for everyone to replenish various bodily requirements along with providing it healthy and tasty nutrition. According to market reports, the global dietary supplement market size is expected to reach $74.14 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 6.34 per cent.  

Puri of Steadfast comments, “The prospects are very positive for the market of nutritional supplements in India because of diversity in population. Another added advantage is the increased purchasing capacity of people as they are spending more on healthcare and wellness. Hence, overall market is progressing in right direction and we closely align ourselves with the market trend.”  

Kohli at DSM India tells that they are constantly trying to create awareness about the need for nutrition with their immunity portfolio among their consumers and giving them willingness to manage their nutritional needs. He adds, “Our aim is to make a significant difference in the nutrition domain and establish Nu-Shakti as a must-have product for every household. We are therefore planning to venture deeper into these markets by strengthening our distribution channels.”  

On the other hand, Bajaj of Power Gummies being optimistic about the growth says, “The future of this industry is only based on the consistent promise to provide a solution to human problems. Our nutrition and health professionals are constantly researching for global discoveries in the supplement industry. We believe that health should be the top priority of everyone and that defines our products.”    

Mehra of Biogetiva suggests that industries in the sector must get inspiration from the nature and combine it in its unadulterated form for a synergistic action. He says, “Stop synthesizing vitamins as they don’t work this way, even the ones derived from food. Create an IP around natural medicine as the world is moving away from pharmaceuticals. Everyone today prefers an adjunct treatment and we should therefore focus on that.”  

It is not surprising then, that manufacturers of immunity-boosting products are working extensively to launch new products in order to meet the increased demand. On a conclusive note, Pooja Bedi suggests some tips for staying healthy and fit during current times. She further says that physical exercises such as dancing and playing a sport maintains a good level of vitamin D and vitamin C in human body.  

Lastly, a consumer should be cautious while purchasing any product sold as immunity booster in the market. Government regulators like FSSAI should ensure that no manufacturer should brand their product as an immunity-boosting product by just including some natural ingredients. The battle against coronavirus can only be won if interests of consumers are fully protected.     

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