'Responsible nutrition' drive to develop health foods that fit into the consumers' lifestyles: Indian industry expert

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Amit Srivastava is the founder of Responsible Nutrition Association of India.
Amit Srivastava is the founder of Responsible Nutrition Association of India.

Related tags Nutrition Low gi Consumer attitudes

The concept of responsible nutrition is gaining traction among Indian firms, with companies increasingly combining consumer appeal with health benefits, claims an industry expert.

Amit Srivastava, the founder of Responsible Nutrition Association of India, presented the concept when speaking on the topic “Responsible Nutrition: Designing a nutraceutical product portfolio with lifestyle disease state in mind” ​at the recent Vitafoods Asia exhibition held in Singapore.

He said that studying consumer habits, designing products that suit their habits, and conducting clinical trials before product launch were some required steps of developing nutritional products responsibly.

“More than marketing and branding…Consumer compliance is important for repeat consumption," ​he said.

“So how do we design effectively a portfolio that keep consumers’ behaviours and habits to mind?"

“Follow the principles of responsible nutrition…It is to study consumers’ behaviour and habits, rationalise the product design, test it before you hit the market...”

One crucial factor is to provide products that fit into consumers’ lifestyles.   

Citing the qualitative and quantitative studies involving diabetic patients, he said that the patients “are not expecting a miracle solution from a product​…Consumers are looking for a product that fits into their lifestyles and habits and it has to be tasty, they do not want to compromise on the taste or their lifestyle habits.”

As such, he encouraged manufacturers to develop products that fit into the consumers’ dietary patterns.

“Instead of giving capsules, these products are designed to fit into lifestyles. And if I give it in the form of capsules, it is not normal, we don’t carry capsules everywhere right, and capsules are associated to medicines.”

“I am giving them what they have been eating, I am just making the same product and format.”


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Strong-headed consumers

Srivastava revealed that most consumers tend to trust in their own research, instead of seeking professional advice when buying health products.

As such, it was all the more important for manufacturers to produce health products in a responsible manner.

He gave the example of India, where a study on consumers’ decision to purchase a nutrition product which comes with a health claim.

In a quantitative study with 500 consumers, the study found that 77% of the consumers said they would consult the doctor before they buy the product.

However, when a qualitative study was conducted, it turned out that only 12% of the consumers said they would consulting a doctor before making a purchase.

Most decided they would not consult the doctors, but make decision on their own.

“It’s nice to say I would consult the doctor but no one really consult the doctor. They decide on their own.”

“When we imported this product, we exposed the consumers to marketing stories and guess what, the consumers are not even going through the whole content. They are quickly scanning the keywords that they see to help them make the decision to purchase the product.”

“So the question is, where are these keywords coming from? These keywords are only in the consumers’ mind, through the doctor that we all have access to, which is doctor Google.”

“There is nothing much the industry can do, consumers are strong-headed, they have their own opinion, experience…What can we do as an industry? Follow the principles of responsible nutrition.”

The benefits of clinical trials

Besides creating products that could fit into consumers’ lifestyles, Srivastava urged companies to back up product health claims with scientific evidence, for 1) building their reputation, and 2) gaining a competitive edge.

“It is a form of self-control, we don’t advertise the clinical trials to consumers, they don’t understand clinical trials, but we share the clinical trials report to the doctors because they respect it,”​ he said.

“We do clinical trials to make sure what we are giving to the consumers really works.”

He added that companies which wish to mirror the success of companies that produce scientifically proven products would need to spend similar amount of time to develop and test their products.

At the same time, the successful firms would already have gone on to develop a newer second generation product, hence gaining a competitive edge over the others.

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