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Fast Moving Health Goods market in fast growth lane
Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Vaibhav Verma and Manish Malhotra
Along with the growing healthcare industry in India there is an emerging trend in Fast Moving Healthcare Goods (FMHG) in India, which are worldwide known as Nutraceuticals.

The Indian nutraceutical market is mainly dominated by pharmaceuticals and FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies with very few them specialising in nutraceutical products. Increasing health-consciousness and improved incomes and standard of living have boosted the growth of nutraceuticals market in India, making it one of the fastest growing segments. A general increase in awareness has been fuelled by the favourable scientific reports about the health benefits of nutraceutical ingredients.

Quality products
In the developed countries, the ageing population which is more health-conscious looks towards consumption of such supplements and foods that provide an optimum balance of nutrition. Today, the Indian consumer is a 'choosy consumer' willing to go that extra mile for quality products rather than 'just another product.' This is applicable for food products as well. Today consumers are more conscious of the importance of a balanced and varied diet.

This is reflected in the mushrooming of myriad fitness gyms and health-related boutiques—a trend that has been prominently observed in the West. Busy work schedules keep people away from healthy food habits and make them a vulnerable target for all sorts of lifestyle diseases and chronic ailments.

FMHG is now a burgeoning market in India. More and more businesses from pharma, OTC, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements, functional foods and FMCG are entering into the high growth segment.

The Indian market is largely a prescription-oriented market. While Rx to OTC switches are implemented more frequently by the pharma majors, many other pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies who have been trying to promote their products through the doctor are now adopting a different route, the direct route to the identified end-user.

Products for health
The FMHG market represents products for health that are directly promoted to end-users. For example, Saffola Gold, an FMCG product, is more like an FMHG product the way it is promoted and used; health drinks (like Complan and Horlicks) are categorically FMHG products along with other health beverages such as fruit, energy and protein drinks. Equal, Sugarfree, Natura and other low calorie sweeteners, Benadryl and Glycodin the cough syrups, Tums and Gelusil the antacids, Vicks, Coldarin, Anacin, Listerine, Waterbury's Compound, Woodward's gripe water, and Iodex are some of the other FMHG products. Rejuvenators, weight loss products, dietary supplements, honey, joint pain relievers and even pregnancy test kits and emergency contraceptive pills have found their way in this segment. Indian consumers have a penchant for anything that is “natural” or carries the “herbal” tag. Gullible consumers even get cheated in the process. But the manufacturers of Nutraceuticals products are trying hard to produce products that suit the Indian palate.

The rural population in India is 72% and until this market is penetrated, real success may elude the nutraceuticals industry.The market will reap benefits for those products that can clearly provide health benefits to the consumers. Growth in herbal extracts segments is likely with green tea, herbal bread, garlic capsules, and soya milk gaining popularity in the market. Probiotics, protein supplements, Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are products that can play a major role in the future growth of the nutraceuticals industry.As far as the Indian market is concerned, nutraceuticals need to be targeted at the bottom of the pyramid population to achieve volume growth. Direct marketing efforts may take longer to reach the consumer but are a viable means of reaching out to the consumer.The Indian nutraceuticals market is dominated by pharmaceuticals and FMCG companies. But the truth is that the market is largely unorganised that the Indian market seems to be going the American way. Multi-level marketing companies are promoting nutraceuticals products in a big way. However, there is an increased need to penetrate the market - especially the rural one.

FMHG segment - Components
  • Nutraceuticals is any substance that is a food or a part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. They are healthcare products that are formulated and taken in fixed dosage form such as capsules and tablets. They cover a wide range of products including dietary supplements and botanicals, for example, vitamins, minerals, co-enzyme Q10, carnitine, ginseng, gingko biloba, saffron, ashwagandha, safed musli, Saint John's Wort, Saw Palmetto, hoodia gordoni, Malabar tamarind, green tea, psyllium husk, bitter guard powder, peepal, adatoda, garlic pills, tulsi, kalmegh, brahmi, and so on.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines that may be sold without a prescription, for example, Crocin, Disprin, D Cold, and Benadryl.
  • Functional foods are foods or dietary components that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition like oats, bran, psyllium husk, and whey protein.
  • Medicinal Foods—They are same as functional foods but have more medicinal values, e.g.: Health bars with added medications.
  • Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease- preventive properties. Some of the well-known phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy and flavanoids in fruits.
  • Ayurvedic and herbal medicines are alternate branch of medicine with claims of prevention, treatment and cure. Herbal medicines are essentially derived from plants in full or extract form.
  • There are other specialised wellness products such as designer foods, organic foods, and sports nutrition.
Today, we lead a very hectic life with loads of work pressure, long commutes and unhealthy foods. To be able to perform at our optimum level, we need to take vitamin supplements. These can be taken after meals. However, do consult your doctor and/or dietician before doing so. Natural source is the best way to get nutrition but unfortunately, the food we eat today is not pure like before, nor is our absorption power that strong. The stress and anxiety we go through in our day-to-day life affects our digestive system as well. So, it’s best to supplement your diet with required vitamins to make up for the loss. It’s always better to consult a dietician or doctor before taking a supplement to be sure you are on the right track and you are taking only how much is required by your body. Blindly popping these pills may affect your health negatively. You can take a multivitamin mineral supplement B-Complex for energy, Calcium for women above 30 years of age, and Vitamin E and C for immunity. These are general ones but change depending on one's food intake and other factors like health problems, lifestyle, and age so better to consult a doctor before one starts having them. Vitamin supplements are not a replacement for one's food. One still needs to eat one's meals on time; they only help in giving one more nutrients which may not be covered in one's diet. Eating vitamin supplements do not give you the leeway to start eating unhealthy, junk food. They cannot provide adequate nutrition as they are just supplements. One still needs to exercise to lose weight and stay fit.

Growth drivers of FMHG market Consumer awareness
Growing awareness of the advantages of wellness to avoid illness, information on the benefits of nutraceuticals and greater health-consciousness are the factors increasing the popularity of wellness products.

Changing lifestyle
The incidence of lifestyle diseases has been increasing with the changing lifestyle. Sedentary habits & the growing fast food culture makes them vulnerable to lifestyle diseases.

Concern over hospitalisation
Escalation in cost of serious medical treatment and the resultant inconvenience are major factors that are encouraging the masses to go for preventive support.

Ageing population
The ageing population will increase the demand for supplements and functional foods to address age-related conditions.

Increasing disposable income
Growing population, particularly that of earning people, is the true growth opportunity to the Indian nutraceutical industry.

The converging economic and demographic trends in India have laid the groundwork for opportunity in the FMHG segment. Today the opportunities are plenty, there is vast empty space in the market, the consumer is hungry for products, the market forces are openly welcoming the new entrants, the competition is not yet intense, and the growth drivers are in place. Hence, in all probability, this is perhaps the right time to enter this market segment in India.

(The authors are assistant professors at Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology)
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