According to a report by market intelligence agency Mintel, 28% of Indian consumers cite the appearance of their hair, skin and nails as their main reason for consuming supplements, while 41% do so for bone and joint health reasons, and 53% do so to boost their energy levels.
Based on a Mintel survey of 3,000 Indian adults aged 18 and above, only 37% of the overall population consume supplements regularly.
Despite this, the nutricosmetics segment is growing fast, with functional claims such as 'skin, hair and nails' (14%), 'beauty benefits' (7%) and 'anti-ageing' (5%) among the beauty claims seen among VMS launches in India between 2014 and 2018.
Mintel also found that 24% of Indians who take supplements feel that they should be formulated using only 'natural' ingredients.
Industry seems to be catering to such preferences: between 2016 and 2018, the top three claims among new product launches in India were 'vegetarian' (67%), 'botanical / herbal' (61%) and 'all-natural product' (31%).
Rimpie Panjwani, Mintel's Senior Beauty and Personal Care Analyst (India), said: "Indian consumers show a strong inclination towards natural products, which can be attributed to the familiarity of ayurveda and a trust in natural ingredients like ginger, turmeric, ashwagandha and kesar.
"This has led to a strong preference for natural VMS remedies derived from fruits and vegetables, as well as those with 'free from' claims.
"Brands can look to explore and innovate with botanicals and herbs within VMS based on traditional knowledge."
She added that brands marketing beauty-from-within benefits must also include specific expected outcomes among their products’ functional claims, as opposed to generic or all-purpose enhancements.
Channelling for youth
Panjwani also stated that Mintel research had shown that brands should "leverage word-of-mouth and social media channels to build brand image, as consumers also seek recommendations by experts and brand when purchasing VMS".
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Sandeep Ahuja, director of Indian beauty and wellness firm VLCC Healthcare, said: "In the Indian context, beauty from within is not a new concept — it has been around as long as ayurveda has been in existence.
"But in recent years, formulations based on ayurveda have been packaged and marketed as supplements and nutraceuticals in the edible beauty space."
He further said that in India, the beauty-from-within market was largely driven by direct sales rather than retail channels, as consumers were less likely to use ingestible skincare products unless they were not only convinced of their effects but also their lack of side effects.
Furthermore, with around 60% of the Indian population being under 35, online channels have also gained popularity among consumers in the country.
Ahuja said: "E-commerce is an emerging channel for such products as well. Most of the market is driven by younger consumers, many of whom are now looking at beauty rather than overall health. And being more Internet-savvy, they tend to do their own research online prior to making purchasing decisions."
He added that younger consumers were also interested in cosmetic innovations that went beyond the usual topical applications and that might offer additional health benefits apart from healthy hair, skin and nails.
At the same time, a greater emphasis on preventive healthcare has led to more younger consumers investing in VMS to minimise their risk of health problems later in life, a strategy also applicable to nutricosmetics purhcases.
Ahuja said, "Younger people have also realised that the cost of curative healthcare has become prohibitively expensive. They have seen their parents incur the costs, or have incurred the costs themselves on behalf of their parents.
"This has given rise to the growing investment in preventive healthcare in India over the last 10 years, especially among younger consumers.
"What began as preventive healthcare has now evolved into widely available nutraceuticals and supplements, including nutricosmetics. These are seen as a more benign solution than more invasive and expensive cosmetic procedures."
Format and perception
While pill fatigue has led brands to innovate away from the traditional capsule, tablet and pill formats for VMS, 62% of Indian consumers said they preferred their supplements in tablet format.
Panjwani said: "Vitamins and supplements are regarded as medicinal in India and for many, (they are) only consumed if prescribed by a doctor, which is likely the reason why consumers prefer them in tablet format.
"However, brands can help change this image by formulating new and indulgent formats, including VMS in drinks, sauces, on-trend spices, and vegetable dishes.
"Snack options like chips, cookies, bars, and cakes with fortified nutrients also have the potential to help make VMS a part of consumers' regular diet."