Sports nutrition and personalisation: Fast&Up sees potential to meet individual needs among younger consumers in India
According to CMO Varun Khanna, there is growing awareness around different body types and varieties in genetic makeup, as well as how they interact with different ingredients, diet plans, types of exercises and levels of activity.
The brand, which belongs to parent company Aeronutrix Sports Products, counts its electrolyte and amino acid products amongst its bestsellers, thanks largely to the former's low sugar content and the supplements' convenient effervescent format.
While CEO Vijayaraghavan Venugopal did not disclose exact figures, he told NutraIngredients-Asia that since the brand entered India three years ago, it has four-fold increases in annual turnover, and has expanded its presence to 550 retail stores.
Its products are also available on its own web store, as well as Amazon and Indian e-commerce platforms such as Healthkart.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Khanna said: "We started with a very niche approach, focusing on nutrition for runners. But we've since started targeting those engaged in other activities and sports. We started catering to those playing cricket, and soon enough, other sports.
"Eventually, we targeted those who work out regularly at the gym, or attend classes like zumba and yoga. Regardless of the level of activity, we want to have something for everyone."
But beyond making its selection of products more well-rounded, the brand also wanted to cater specifically to the Indian market, where approximately 60% of the population is under the age of 35.
"India being a predominantly vegetarian country, many people have issues getting sufficient vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and we've built our business on helping active individuals with these problems.
"There are many US-made sports nutrition products sold in India, but what works for an American may not work for an Indian. We worked on formulating products that suited the Indian physique and diet."
With the large proportion of younger consumers in mind, Fast&Up also knew it could not rely on branding and inclusivity to capture the market.
Khanna acknowledged that younger consumers tended to be less brand-loyal and more open to trying different products in order to find out what is best for them, and were constantly on the lookout for new technologies and innovations.
"Appealing to a younger crowd requires a focus on quality and innovation. We don't want to simply offer standard capsules or tablets — instead, we want to develop an experience around our products.
"Our effervescent tablets, for example, offer not just health benefits but also the dimension of taste and enjoyment — something people can look forward to taking instead of feeling like they are obliged to take it."
To further draw in the younger crowd, Fast&Up plans to offer personalised nutrition by engaging healthcare professionals, dietitians and nutritionists at the retail stores that carry its products, so customers can receive professional advice and recommendations based on their needs and preferences.
"This is something that's really high up on our list. It could be implemented as soon as the next three to six months, or at least, within the next year," said Khanna, adding that this would be the best way to ensure a high degree of personalisation on an individual level.
"There are many different types of diets that make it challenging to be able to provide personalised options through supplements alone, and it's difficult to produce small batches, especially in a country like India.
"Logistically speaking, most processes are designed for large-scale, high-volume production. A lot of companies offer recommendations on a mix-and-match basis, but that may not be specific enough on an individual level."
Khanna further said that the brand was keen to focus on macro diet plans by offering supplements that would complement such plans, and that could be easily integrated into customers’ diets of choice.
"The keto diet, for example, requires a lot of magnesium, so we developed a magnesium supplement that could provide a high dose in effervescent tablet format."
New and disruptive
In terms of new product development, he emphasised the brand's desire to be 'disruptive' in the market, saying it was working on differentiated proteins as well as higher bioavailability of vitamins and minerals.
"Instead of conventional whey or dietary proteins, we are working with proteins that have a far more sustainable aspect to them so they can provide long-term health benefits, and which offer higher tolerance, safety and efficacy to the user.
"We also want to offer vitamins and minerals that much of the population lacks at a higher level of absorption. Taking more vitamins isn't necessarily better, and we are working on technology that can increase absorption and bioavailability."
Last week, the brand launched its first caffeine energy drink, Reload+Caffeine, designed to provide instant hydration for endurance athletes. The product is touted as India's first effervescent hypotonic hydration supplement containing caffeine to replenish energy and electrolytes.
It is also the country's only electrolyte product to be certified under the Informed-Choice, an international quality assurance programme for sports nutrition products, suppliers and manufacturing facilities, confirming it has been tested for and is free from banned substances.
Expansion wise, Fast&Up's focus remains on India, as well as Italy, with a future interest in South East Asia and Africa. Presently, its products are available in several European countries, such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Greece. The brand has also received interest from the US, and plans to eventually have a global presence.
The company is confident in its prospects going forward, believing the quality of its products will draw in a steady stream of consumers.
Venugopal said, "We use a proprietary technology developed in Switzerland to manufacture our supplements in India — it's the same platform the Swiss facility uses, and has ensured consistent quality across the board."