Convening at our second Healthy Ageing APAC Summit in Singapore, these were the views shared by Amit Srivastava (CEO of government-linked incubation hub Bio Valley), K.V. Rambabu (CEO, Pulsepharma), Raktim Chattopadhyay (Founder, Esperer Bioresearch) and Dr Vivek Srivastav (Director, Development Centre Entereal Nutrition, NESEA, Fresenius Kabi India).
The session was chaired by Koe Ting Min, Editor of our sister title NutraIngredients-Asia.
Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:
Stronger scientific evidence
According to Rambabu, nutraceutical manufacturers in India are constrained by the fact that they need to access consumers through the medical sector as a result of local consumption trends.
“Many consumers are unwilling and averse to taking pills for supplementation, [so] we have to sell through the medical sector where doctors will balance between drug therapy and [supplementation] therapy,” he said.
“It is very difficult because we do not have direct access to the consumers. We end up having to educate the doctors to prescribe, but they have their own constraints as they can’t prescribe too many pills – consumers are averse to that as well.”
Srivastava added that as compared to other countries like China, which depend a lot on social media to promote new nutraceuticals, Indian consumers require much more scientific evidence to back up a product before putting any faith in it.
“Based on a consumer study we did, the top two sites that Indian consumers consult whenever they see new products were the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),” he said.
Both sites mentioned are platforms that mainly carry scientific research papers, showing that these consumers place a great deal of importance on scientific evidence from such channels.
Regionalisation or localisation was also mentioned as an important factor to draw the market, as well as to obtain approval for products.
“Regionalisation is very important in the Indian nutraceutical markets, no matter what segment you are looking at targeting – often, government regulators will ask specifics about what will happen if such and such a products is applied in the Indian market,” said Srivastava.
This is also important in terms of ingredient utilisation – the panel revealed that companies are encouraged to use ingredients of Indian origin, as well as those which have results that are already on record locally.
“An example is one of our energy drinks – because we found caffeine to have limited benefits for the human body, we regionalised these drinks by using an alternate ingredient, the Indian ginseng ashwagandha to provide energy,” said Rambabu.
“We found Indian ginseng to not only be as effective as caffeine, but also adaptogenic and capable of handling stress, so we intend to target these drinks at corporate working world consumers who face high levels of work stress,” he claimed.
Education and strategy
Despite the challenges, the panel also cited several examples of nutraceutical brands that have managed to achieve success based on the current common model of selling through the medical sector.
“Revital first built their endorsement through medical professionals, and later successfully pushed this through to selling directly to consumers after confidence had been built up in their products,” said Srivastava.
Rambabu mentioned infant formula brand Pediasure as having a similar story in the country, which is now selling direct to consumers after having seen successful endorsement by doctors in the country.
“There is much to be done in terms of education, and [based on this model], we need to mostly still educate the doctors for now, and not so much the consumers yet,” he added.
According to Rambabu, the importance of consumer education was still a major factor that should not be ignored.
“In India, the challenge is not so much the availability of nutrients, but the [consumer] knowledge of what to eat and what not to eat,” he said.
Srivastav on the other hand felt that it would be most important to convince dietitians in hopsitals about the relevant products to achieve success.
“If the dietitians are convinced of the product, 75% of your issues are solved,” he claimed.