Health foods yet to catch up in India

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Indian consumers are not ready for healthy options that taste differently from the full-calorie version
Indian consumers are not ready for healthy options that taste differently from the full-calorie version
Two product withdrawals in India for sugar-free and fat-free foods suggest that the country's consumers may not yet be ready for healthy options that taste differently from the full-calorie original.

Local business daily reported last week that the multinational beverage maker PepsiCo had decided to shelve expansion plans for Pepsi Max, a low-calorie, sugar-free cola with a much stronger taste.

Touted as an alternative to Pepsi Cola and Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max was launched last year in August. At that time, PepsiCo had said that the product was targeted at the health-conscious consumers in the 25 to 35 years age group.

The cola was to initially be available in the capital city of New Delhi and its suburbs before being rolled out in other urban areas. However, as per the report in Economic Times, the company has decided to drop those plans.

Officials at PepsiCo did not comment on the report regarding Pepsi Max when contacted and did not give details whether the product would still be available in the areas it was already launched in.

However, a distributor in New Delhi, who requested anonymity as he is not allowed to talk to the media as per his agreement with the company, PepsiCo has stopped offering the product altogether.

Around the same time, India's largest biscuit maker Parle Products Ltd said that it too was withdrawing its baked chip brand Monaco Smart Chips, barely a year after its national launch. The company said that the consumers were still to warm up to healthier options and would not yet compromise on taste.

A marketing executive with a rival food manufacturer, that also has a brand of baked chips in the market, agreed with the aforementioned assessment and said that the Indian consumer is yet to evolve to Western levels in this regard.

“A consumer might compromise on the frequency of consumption, but not on taste. Though there is a general alarm over lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes, it seems the manufacturers are fretting more than the consumers,”​ she said.

According to her, in India, the eating habits have not evolved yet to western levels where the consumer is far more conscious of what he eats and almost always wants natural to eat and drink.

“In India, sugary juices still trail 100 per cent natural ones, and health drinks represent a very miniscule market share when compared to the cola giants and sugar free ice creams are almost unheard of,”​ she added.

At the same time, the executive said that the market will take at least a decade more to grow to such a state that food and beverage makers could spin sustainable businesses around health foods and drinks.

Related topics: Markets and Trends

4 comments

Show more

Isn't it more healthy to eat/drink with natural sugar less frequently than to eat with artificial sweetners more frequently?

Posted by Swamy,

Why is that the foods/drinks with less sugar/fat are considered as healthy? infact they are artificial and unhealthy for people who lead normal life, do good excercise and follow moderation on what they eat.

Report abuse

Indians make love to food

Posted by Parvati,

Indians make love to food and to some extent one has seen this with the Hispanic community too. Hence to talk health in food is like talking health in context of sex. One has to approach it delicately and ensure that it creates a positive impact for the brand rather than reducing its sheen.
I agree with the food scientist and feel that healthy food in India is not such an oxymoron as abroad and hence marketers find it difficult to convince Indians that their current diet is unhealthy. Also we have to recognize that collectively India has more malnourished people and hence Indians equate nourishment to both nutrition as well as a certain chubby (from Western perspective) look then we can easily understand why all these faddish offerings find very niche acceptance. The niche that accepts these healthy options are also most likely to be the ones who are more "westernized" in their outlook. Personally I am no advocate of the Western outlook and feel the Indian diet has much more to offer in terms of nutrients, variety and fun.

Report abuse

Partly Agree

Posted by Licavi,

I partly agree with Ankush's assessment on the trends in the Indian market. While Ankush has only mentioned that 2 multinationals that had to shelf their products, does not mean that Indian people/consumer is ignorant of the health foods. There are so many traditional healthy Indian food available in the market. Basically Soft drinks and chips for that matter are always thought to be bad for health by the "wise"Indian consumer, contrary to the western world. Thus the 2 companies had to shelf their products.

I also agree what Kavisol has said about the awarness of Indian consumer to these facts and the taste factor is very important. Also the Indian consumer has started believing in the traditional Indian helathy drinks/foods.

What I think is that multinationals should be smart to tap into other health markets, like Milk products, mixed fruit drinkable yoghurt, fruit/vege mix juices etc...

This is what is lacking in India- good Product Development Companies in the Food & Beverage Sectors, food packaging design. Indian market is stuck and needs to do some motivation and innovative thinkers.

Report abuse

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars

Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast