OPINION

Advancing India: How policy and industry can align to make nation a nutraceutical powerhouse

By Amit Srivastava

- Last updated on GMT

Advancing India: How policy and industry can align to make nation a nutraceutical powerhouse

Related tags: India, Nutrition, Food

India is in a prime position to become a major player on the global nutraceutical stage, writes Amit Srivastava from the Nutrify India project, which aims to empower responsible nutrition businesses in the country.

The global nutraceutical market continues to grow at 8% per year with the US commanding 60% of the market share, but the sector is only going to get bigger as the “want” for preventive health turns into a “need”.

The nutraceuticals is bound to be an integral part of any country’s economic growth strategy.

For its part, India wants its economy to touch US$10tn by 2030.This quadrupling of growth is certainly worthy of praise, but the question is can this be delivered when 840m citizens are calorific sufficient but malnourished?

This emerging “need” to stay healthy, alongside the growing population size, greater information access and increasing spending power should see the domestic nutra industry, currently valued at US$9bn and growing 12% per annum, enjoy further gains.

The big question, now, is: How equipped is India to develop and deliver high quality, clinically validated nutraceuticals and what equity it has into the global market in the field of formulated products and ingredients?

Most of the Indian nutraceutical industry operates in ‘cookie cutter’ model and has not evolved with times. India’s exports in nutraceuticals is slightly below US$250m - ingredients and formulation combined.

That’s a negligible amount in the global nutraceuticals market of US$387bn.

On other hand, India imports active ingredients and formulated nutraceuticals to the tune of US$2.3bn. It also has 108 large contract manufacturers in nutraceuticals, but none are able to tap into international projects.

For India to emerge as a nutraceutical hub that delivers world class and high science nutraceutical products to serve the needs in India and also command a respectable share in the international nutraceutical market, it will need some structural reforms.

Here are my suggestions…

Government backing

The nutraceutical industry will only flourish through incubation, and this essentially means centralized ownership. The most suitable ownership would be with Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI).

The ministry should create a Medical/Health Foods subcategory and also oversee the biodiversity laws from MoEF (Ministry of Environment, forest and climate change) and NBA (National Biodiversity Authority).

This will stop Indian innovators using the USA as the platform to launch their plant ingredient discoveries and help small to medium sized players ramp up business, which is currently curtailed by the complexity of biodiversity laws.

MoFPI should also create nutraceutical parks in strategic locations of India to enable entrepreneurs as well as larger players in nutraceuticals, to tap into research, development and lab complexes, prototyping, testing, validation, common facilities (like blender farms, SCO2 facilities, spray drying, freeze drying, fermenters etc) and market access. 

MoFPI has already created the NIFTEM (National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship Management) and this is an appreciable first step towards a fully evolved ecosystem park.

Regulatory improvements

While FSSAI / and the Ministry of Ayush continues to evolve in the right direction, resource constraints and the vast area of food regulations, unlike in pharmaceuticals, has kept regulators distant from effective enforcement.

This has resulted in some nutraceutical/Ayurveda companies indulging in deviated claims and practices bringing in loss of trust and disrespect to the industry.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance should moderate ​import duties to allow space for local ingredient manufacturers to develop, and create incentives for medical food and nutraceutical exports and revise the tax structure to make nutraceuticals more accessible to the wider population.

Industry responsibilities

The Indian nutraceutical industry needs to self-regulate and adhere to responsible nutrition principles.

The Nutrify India initiative seeks to enable responsible nutrition innovation through start-ups and commercialize innovation through government market access programmes as well as large companies with strong supply chains. 

Industry should also work closely with the Responsible Nutrition Association in creating standards that can be used internationally too, and pledge to work closely with incubation hubs to drive innovation.

There are 4000 nutraceutical start-ups in India working with various incubation hubs supported by government’s innovation promotion bodies like BIRAC and AIC

Finally, industry must accept clinical trials and validation as new norms. Due to COVID-19s, there is a major push from the government for clinical validation of ingredient or formulations. This is showcased by a large-scale study on 80,000 subjects being rolled out by the government on Ayush ingredients.

I believe these combined efforts would not only lead to better health outcomes to enable the population deliver higher economic objectives, but also build strong Indian equity into global nutraceuticals space.

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