Below are some startling facts and most of these challenges need to be addressed by the food and beverage industry in India.
Leading a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise has indeed become the new trend, and this is facilitated by the multiple convenient and affordable food formats available in the market.
India, has been infamous for its high malnutrition rates. But lately, it’s also a place where obesity has sky-rocketed into a national crisis across age-groups with changing lifestyles, limited physical exercise and adverse climatic conditions making outdoors a difficult choice for kids and elderly. In this scenario the consumer is seeking out for food which is balanced and right for their families to prevent the issue of obesity and other associated health issues.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is one of the most common, yet among the most neglected, public health problems in both developed and developing countries. Global food manufacturers have an important role to play with food products that help consumers control their calorie intake more easily and consistently. Appetite control is a relatively new focus area for the food industry. As a result, a new category of food and beverage products is emerging, positioned to minimize hunger between meals, reducing the desire to eat and resulting in lower energy intake. For example, dairy snack options (greek yogurt, lassi, chaas), ready-to-drink dairy and non-dairy beverages as wells as some quick snack bytes.
Another food related health challenge is being lactose intolerant. The most important long-term health consequence of lactose intolerance is calcium deficiency that leads to osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency is less common but may also occur and compound the bone disease. But the real problem is that many lactose intolerant people who consciously or unconsciously avoid milk do not realize that they need a supplement. On the other hand, many Indians are not even aware of the intolerance towards lactose. There are many innovative solutions in the market which offers advanced dairy food formats which are lactose-free. And of course, there is more work that can happen in this area to develop products alternatives that are tasty and affordable. We can see products from popular brands on retail shelves which address the twin issues of lactose intolerance and strengthening the gut. These products contain completely natural enzymes, cultures, and probiotics which are healthy and provide an excellent taste to the product.
Digestive health can be impacted when the delicate ecological balance in the gut is not supported through proper diet or is disturbed by environmental or physiological factors. Dietary supplements and functional foods containing probiotics or fiber represent effective options for promoting optimal digestive function in response to certain challenges that impact gut health. There are many high fiber products available in the market now.
Probiotics is another emerging category of products for the Indian consumer to address their digestive and immunity related issues.
Probiotics are micro-organisms and completely natural, they are an essential requirement to strengthen the gut with good bacteria. Globally probiotics have been used in many dairy and beverage applications. China, Australia, and the US are leaders in this category and many millions of consumers have benefitted by eating these products. In India, we are yet to see mass market brands containing probiotics. However, the trend towards preventative healthcare is picking up. Many brands are now keen to launch new products with specific health exciting ingredient that’s comes with substantiation of science.
In a globalized and knowledge intensive world, consumers tend to make purchasing decisions based on the information that is widely available. What might also accelerate innovation towards a healthier food and beverage market are the labelling initiatives. Clear nutrition signposting on the front of food packaging is an important tool to help people make healthier food choices. Repeated consumer surveys across the globe show that people want a single, trusted system of nutritional labelling that uses a consistent approach, wherever they shop, whatever the brand. While many sceptics view them as mere marketing techniques used by food companies, nutrition and health claims on foods do have the potential to contribute to the achievement of public health objectives. However, this role will only be effective when there are clear guidelines, and the industry takes responsibility in adhering to the guidelines, regardless of them being voluntary or mandatory. Many countries have already adopted frameworks to govern this area. For example,
These developments augur well, both for providing a level playing field to the industry and a trustworthy mechanism to ensure ethical delivery of promise to the consumers. Hopefully this will also result in expansion of market for products based on scientific claims. Apart from ensuring availability of products to consumers, success of such products may also result in increased investment in science and technology by the companies involved. All these regulations aim to push innovation towards health and wellness products, and empower the consumers to choose wisely. FSSAI in India has also launched many initiatives which will make food safer and healthier for the Indian consumers in the coming times.
The median age of consumers in India is a young 28. Most youths in urban and rural areas are well versed with the internet and now demand the best that is available globally. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Challenge because the average Indian consumer is value conscious, and an opportunity because any company that addresses their needs will be richly rewarded.
Consumers today are making more informed choices and paying greater attention to preventive healthcare. Naturally this has created a boom in the market for fortified foods and nutritious food and beverage options. Functional ingredients such as proteins, cultures, probiotics, functional carbohydrates and dietary fiber play a key role in the health and wellness space. These ingredients significantly improve the nutritional profiles of many foods and beverages delivering weight management, immunity and digestive health benefits while not compromising on taste and texture of our local foods.
This industry is clearly a ‘Blue Ocean’ and the winners will be those who act now.
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