The Covid-19 pandemic impacted people’s food habit in two broad ways. Firstly, people were taken aback by the suddenness of the pandemic – lockdowns were enforced overnight and people were ordered to stay indoors, and hence, access to food items were restricted. This later on led to consumers buying packaged food products more than usual as people wanted to stock up for the future.
Secondly, and more importantly, due to the nature of the pandemic, people became extremely conscious about healthy eating and gravitated towards nutritional food that can boost immunity. Impact of both the cases was a spike in demand, but for the nutraceutical industry it opened new horizons for new formulations, innovations and an exponential growth.
Speaking at The Economic Times Delivering Nutrition Summit, Anurag Jain, Business Director, South Asia, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, opined that in India the pandemic has given rise to dramatic changes in consumers’ dietary preferences. There is a strong desire to redesign the food habits, widening their choices in surprising ways and a rising demand for healthier and revitalizing food, majorly in three areas.
Firstly, a growing number of consumers today are realizing that good immune health starts in the gut. We also see manufacturers are increasingly using probiotic cultures to address those needs. Secondly, from a weight management point of view, people are keen to adopt fiber rich diets as they provide satiety benefits and help reduce energy intake, in turn helping avoid excess weight and obesity.
Finally, consumer health concerns have also sharpened the focus on energy, hence over 60% of urban Indians have tried to include more protein in their diet over the past year by taking additional dietary supplements. With the global vegan trend fast catching up, Indian manufacturers are also exploring plant-based protein sources such as soy and pea.
Tarun Arora, Chief Executive Oﬃcer, Zydus Wellness, pointed out that consumers’ consciousness and awareness about food has gone over the top and it will stay like this in the future. Now, the consumers are actually reading the labels on the packaging very carefully. The industry has responded with firstly, a reduction focus on salt, sugar and fat and secondly, in terms of addition, companies are trying to address the protein deficiency problem that exists profoundly in India.
Sunil Kumar, Country President, Henkel Group highlighted another distinct impact of the pandemic. He underlined that the food packaging industry has developed phenomenally in the past few years. Due to the pandemic, packaging has become the “5th P” in marketing as people are now favoring products with packaging that maintains nutritional content of the food and keeps it safe. The focus on employing sustainable practices for food packaging has also increased drastically in the industry.
In the past few months, the food and nutrition sector has grown exponentially to cater to the rising demands of the consumers. Sujith Sathyadas, Sales Leader Dairy & NBD, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences, stated that in the recent past nearly 1000 new startups have been born in the food and nutritional area. He opined that the nutraceutical sector will soon overtake the pharma sector as people will continue to place more importance on staying fit and boosting immunity to avoid being sick.
Discussing the tremendous need for innovation in the nutraceutical sector Sathyadas said that the Nutri sector should imbibe advanced technology from the pharma industry. He recommended the nutraceutical packaging industry to hire people from the pharma industry in order to maintain the efficacy of the food as far as possible.
He further expounded that just like the pharma industry can administer a medicine dosage in a compact pill, the Nutri sector should also think about delivering nutrition in the form of a pill that has multiple coatings and can release different nutrients in different parts of the body.
Providing a perfect conclusion to the discussion Ajay Khanna, Country Head, Herbalife India, said that in these challenging times, the consumer base is being very careful in choosing what to eat. This in turn has catalyzed the growth of the nutraceutical industry which appears to be poised for a great future.