Nutraceuticals make it to the grocery shopping list

Last Updated: Sat, May 24, 2008 09:32 hrs

They've been around for at least seven to eight years-as tablets, capsules, syrups and what have you. But it's only now that these 'immunity builders' are gaining acceptance. Health supplements, or 'nutraceuticals' as they are called in industry parlance, are slowly making their way into the closets of metro households.

Nutraceuticals cover a basket of products from dietary supplements to probiotic and energy drinks to cholesterol- and fat-free foods and memory tonics, among others. With metro lives becoming increasingly stressful and health consciousness catching on, this market is finally getting its due.

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Take the example of Mumbai's Shruti Shah. From her monthly salary of Rs 30,000, the 24-year-old consultancy firm executive spends a minimum of Rs 2,800 on health tonics and multivitamin pills.

Shah's fascination with wellness began eight months ago, when she read an article about how a sedentary lifestyle could lead to chronic illnesses.

She's hardly the only one. Many metro executives in their early 20s to 40s and 50s and earning annual packages of Rs 2 lakh and above look to nutraceuticals to stay healthy, says Somnath Das, chief operating officer of Manipal Cure and Care, a chain of wellness centres owned by the Bangalore-based Manipal Group.

As per estimates by consulting firm Technopak Advisors, about 7% of the average Indian household's spending is on healthcare. This figure is expected to hit 13% by the end of 2008. "This means that spending on nutraceuticals would also increase accordingly," says Das.

This market is pegged at $400 million now and is expected to grow at over 20% per annum.

Growing awareness among Indians about healthy living is helping this industry, says Arvind Junagade, senior vice president (technical) at Amway India, a network marketing company that has a dietary supplements range. "Increasing disposable incomes and changing spending habits and lifestyles are further accelerating the growth of these products," he says.

The products, though present in the market earlier too, were then bought through a prescription. "Now, people are buying them over-the-counter, as there is increasing awareness that nutraceuticals are organic products and don't have side effects," Junagade adds.

Nutraceuticals account for over 60% of the Rs 800-crore Amway India's business and Junagade expects them to grow at 20% annually in the coming years.

Others too are cashing in on the health wave. Bangalore-based biopharmaceutical company Avesthagen is planning to increase its annual production capacity for nutraceuticals from 1,050 metric tonne now to 7,000 metric tonne by 2010.

Mumbai-based Alkem Laboratories offers sugar-free ayurvedic supplements and low-calorie sweeteners. The company is planning fat-free cooking oils, bakery products, sugarless jams and juices in the next 6-12 months, says Vinod Dua, Alkem's head of domestic business. At Alkem, the nutraceuticals business contributes 5% to the company's revenues of Rs 1,000 crore. This is expected to double year on year.

The Rs 515-crore fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) player Emami too is expected to jump the bandwagon. In about eight months, it is likely to add to its nutraceuticals portfolio, ayurvedic tonics for diabetes, blood pressure, stress, hypertension as also energy boosters.

"Currently, we have chyawanprash and tonics for cold and cough. The health division contributes about 7-8% to our revenues and we expect it to contribute about 25% in the next two years," says N Venkat, Emami's CEO and executive director.

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On their part, Dabur and the Manipal group are popularising nutraceuticals through their wellness centres. With areas ranging between 800 sq ft and 3,000 sq ft, Dabur's six wellness stores retail products such as chyawanprash, glucose, health drinks and supplements.

By 2011, Manipal is planning to open 50 such stores from two now. Their size would vary between 6,000 sq ft and 10,000 sq ft. "We have noticed a high conversion rate of 80% at our stores. For now, we source the nutritional supplements from France and Australia, but we may later get into manufacturing them here," Das adds.

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