The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the spotlight not only on public hygiene and safety, but also on diet and nutrition, particularly with the focus on building immunity. Locked up at homes, Indians in metros and Tier 1 and 2 cities jumped onto the health food and health supplement bandwagon to ward off the Covid-19 impact on health.
The rise of the consumer internet, growing social media penetration and vernacular content platforms have broadened the healthcare horizon for the typical Indian, particularly in the urban regions. More Indians are conscious about their health and nutrition than ever before, as pointed out in the latest DataLabs by Inc42+ report on the healthtech sector.
The report found that modern-day urban lifestyles have led to a rising incidence of life-threatening diseases like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer and diabetes. The number of cases has grown for diabetes (3.18%), cardiovascular diseases (47.94%), hypertension (10.51%), stroke (46.24%) and common cancers (324.18%) from 2017 to 2018, as per NCD data. This has led to a boom for preventive health and wellness solutions, which includes the health supplement and ayurvedic products.
Indian Startups Rise Up To The Health & Wellness Opportunity
The number of health-conscious individuals (HCI) in India was 90 Mn in 2018 and expect to grow by 1.4 times to reach 130 Mn by 2022 according to a Redseer report. This has fuelled the growth achieved by health products startups such as AADAR, Epigamia, 23BMI, Namhya Foods, Storia and others in recent months. And this growth has been highest for immunity booster foods and products. The demand also trickled down to Indian startups offering wellness products ranging from healthy snacks, immunity shots and ayurvedic pills.
For instance, DSG Consumer Partners-backed Epigamia noticed a considerable spike in demand. Talking to Inc42, Epigamia cofounder and CEO Rohan Mirchandani said that consumers are also looking for immunity-boosting, natural and preservative-free products.
“We had an innovation pipeline of products focussed on probiotics and we are fast-tracking the same. The same will be added to the range or probiotic curd that we currently sell. We are focussed on disrupting the “fresh” snacking in the packaged consumer goods space,” Mirchandani added.
Wellness products make 23BMI primarily focusses on weight management and related concerns through subscription-based offerings. Cofounder and CEO Kuonal Lakhapati said that after Covid-19, 23BMI has observed a spike in revenue by 54% month-on-month with a 150% increase in monthly inquiries. Combined with this, the company said that it recorded a 42% increase in sales in FY20 as compared to FY19.
Its proprietary meal replacement products that claim to enable a balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals. “Post Covid-19, as the demand spiked, an increase in the volume aided reduction in the production cost of meal replacement products. 23BMI is working on its mobile application to offer a wide range of freebies and information to motivate people towards adopting healthier habits,” Lakhapati said.
Similarly, healthy products brand Auric said it was able to sell close to 100K bottles of its immunity-centric product in June, nearly double of what it sold in January. Auric founder Deepak Agarwal told us that Auric Body Defence which is a strong immunity blend of ashwagandha, moringa and other herbs became a bestseller during the lockdown and continues to sell well now. In sharp contrast, before the pandemic, it was the company’s Auric Skin Radiance beauty product that was selling well, Agarwal said.
Namhya foods, which launched its health drinks in December last year, has seen sales growth of 62% in June as compared to January-February period.
“Considering the portfolio we have, which typically consists of preventive health care products like heart tea, immunity booster latte, ayurvedic tea, sattu breakfast cereal, we saw a very significant shift towards products containing herbs like ashwagandha, moringa, turmeric, Brahmi etc,” the company told us. Namhya added that its immunity booster latte was the most sold product during the period April- June.
Vishal Shah, founder and MD, Storia Foods & Beverages told Inc42 that it took nearly two months for the demand for healthier foods to show some traction. Storia received a lot more queries from consumers and business partners from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, he claimed. “We’re also seeing a surge on our multi assorted 6 packs showing signs that home consumption for larger packs are on the rise against an impulse consumption at the store itself,” Shah added.
Sticking To Healthy Choices In The Post-Covid World
The pandemic has changed how we eat and live. Consumers are not only looking at healthier alternatives but are also looking at value-added fortifications like immunity boosters and nutrients.
“Covid-19 is something that is having a major impact on the eating and drinking habits of consumers, especially as concerns cover both health and financial worries. The industry in itself is striving to find new ways to reach to their consumers keeping in mind their safety. We expect a lot of innovation in the supply chain using technology across rural and urban markets not only by the consumers but by the retailers as well,” Storia’s Shah said.
Health brands claim that Covid-19’s impact on consumer behaviour will boost all health-related products and services. As evidenced in DataLabs’ healthtech sector report, released in June 2020, preventive healthcare will see the biggest jump on the back of fitness and wellness products.
The focus on consumers is on sustainable diet and lifestyle plans that can be achieved without too much retail shopping and without having to search for the ingredients. Consumers are expected to channelise a major portion of their disposable income towards sanitizers, disinfectants, nutritional products, immunity boosters, etc. Preventive healthcare, diagnostics solutions and ayurveda are on the rise. Consumers also seem more open to try out ayurveda and health brands like ours as long as the quality is consistent.
Sharing AADAR’s operation strategy during the lockdown, the healthcare company’s cofounder Aadil Shah told Inc42 that the company bounced back in no time from the initial lull after the lockdown was announced. “Pre-Covid, consumers knew ayurveda, but did not recognise it. A lot of effort went into educating and explaining them the health benefits among other nuances. Today, it has flipped 180 degrees, where customers themselves are well aware of the benefits, and the need for educating them is almost negligible” shared Shah, “Instead of push, it has now become a pull.”