Health is a big consumer need. But what does healthier mean for the Indian consumer? Why are some of the food & beverages healthier propositions not doing as well as would be expected? How can we win by solving for key health related needs of the Indian consumer?
Winning Via "Healthier" Propositions
Health is a much abused word. Health needs manifest as hygiene needs and at other times as nutrition gaps or ingredients consumers seek. Its important to understand that even as younger consumers are open to adopting the new, Indians have grown up in the backdrop of the cultural template of sattvic food, and value local and fresh produce for its inherently higher nutrient value.
Even before Covid hit us, we have been living with high levels of pollution, poor hygiene and drinking water, concerns around adulteration and new disease outbreaks every season. Most of us have an increasingly sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle! Today even our kids are dealing with stress and anxiety! Phew! No wonder then that as consumers, we gravitate towards brands that promise a healthier alternative!
In our work, consumers voice the following concerns around health
Across categories – there are new launches of brands seeking to sell “healthier” but these continue to be insignificant in size as a proportion to the overall market; whether it be digestive biscuits; Diet beverages; or the Multigrain/oats of instant noodles. Healthier alternatives come at a premium and that may be part of the problem. Is pricing the only reason behind the stark difference in the interest around health versus the size of health-based propositions?
What do the consumers say?
In our work, consumers voice the following concerns around health
Hygiene and safety: “I worry about basics like hygiene when eating out” This has been a key barrier in expanding food tech in India. A focus on hygiene and food safety post Covid has helped the Food tech business.
False claims and misleading information: “I can’t trust anything on face value” Brands and ingredient short cuts are key to building trust with customers
Loaded with bads: “almost all packaged products are loaded with maida, excess oils, salt, and sugar” Chemicals vs. natural ingredients “it’s hard-to-get real stuff these days. Makes me worry about what chemicals we are eating or applying on our skin” Makes me worry about what chemicals we are eating or applying on our skin”
Low nutrition value (versus high in calories) “is it providing me good nutrition? That’s the key question and not just how many calories a food has.”
While packaged products typically solve the “hygiene” concerns, there is a high trust deficit amongst consumers when it comes to claims made by packaged products along with a growing awareness about the bads. The brand packaged products along with a growing awareness about the bads. The brand Whole Truth Foods seem to have emerged from this consumer insight.
In the case of skincare & personal hygiene, products being safe to use on my skin comes up as the key need. Brands like Mamaearth who assure their products are safe for babies (hence safest) with supporting claims like toxins, parabens free have gained high momentum.
Provide health “Inside-out”
There is a deep belief that superficial changes aren’t effective and taking care of health requires fundamental changes in lifestyle and helping the body inside-out. A chyawanprash eating nation, we see high pull for categories like nutraceuticals (daily vitamins and specific supplements), ACV, Probiotics, Green teas that are believed to strengthen your gut health and immunity.
Making Fresh convenient.
As affluence had grown and consumption of packaged & outside-home food and beverage has increased, so has the awareness that we are overindulging in not-to-healthy options. Having being brought up in the cultural template of sattvic food, we value local and fresh produce for its inherently higher nutrient value and is seen as healthier. However, modern lifestyles make it increasingly difficult to practise this. New D2C entrants like Licious and now Quick commerce players, DIY solutions by the likes of iD have made huge in-roads as they solve this key consumer dilemma. Raw Pressery attempted this with its cold pressed juices delivered to you fresh. Many of the packaged players are leveraging this trend via source authenticity (such as MP’s Sharbatti atta by Aashirwad) or a farm-to-table preserving goodness route say by Country Delight or Wingreens. Organic produce is also gaining traction and commands a premium even as many don’t understand what it really means or often the credibility of these claims is suspect. Consumers find resonance as organic produce signals atleast some level of scrutiny of process and better quality.
The Hero and Zero approach
Depending on who your target audience is and the category you play in- there are some hero ingredients that instantly provide “goodness” credentials and “efficacy credibility” to your product. Each new trend report points to some new and exotic ingredients, but the humble kitchen ingredients have remained the desi heroes! “Lemon” for example has proved its magic from categories as diverse as shampoo, soft drinks, dish washer, and skin care. Colgate “salt” is another great example of listening-in to existing habits & beliefs and creating a packaged offering based on it. The zero approach works by assuring consumers of no hidden baddies. There is brand called “Shunya” leveraging this insight selling….. However, its important to understand that for most Indian consumers preservatives, artificial sweeteners etc bigger baddies and hence this approach works more as support claims.
Wellness & Guilt-free indulgence
Savvy marketers realize that the pressure to look good and adopt a healthier lifestyle is an added burden to the list of anxieties for many consumers. Providing guilt-free indulgences anchoring in wellness can be a smarter strategy as health is seen as requiring one to give up on pleasure. This also sits well both with the Indian cultural template of holistic wellness as well as the pursuit of mindful living in the western template. We see a wider adoption of these “little changes” i.e., choosing a smaller pack size of a snack or beverage, replacing “whites” with whole grains or browns and sometimes diet options of indulgent foods such as keto burfi or cutting down on the occasions of bads (sugary milky tea to black coffee or green tea; cheat days or treat days and the growing interest in Non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beverages. Consumers are on the look-out for alternatives which require lower effort and hence are sustainable.
Finally, getting the size of opportunities right is key to winning in health!
Many of the emerging opportunities are niche and defining the minimal viable audience and the right business model is key to win! The founder’s personal endorsement works magic just as Ramdev baba did for Patanjali. So, is your story aligned to the health needs of the consumers? Are you ready to gain a place in consumer’s life via a healthier proposition?