Vegan not synthetic: India’s plant-based supplement firm ‘fills gap’ with multivits

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Unived's vegan multivitamin capsule product.  ©Unived
Unived's vegan multivitamin capsule product. ©Unived

Related tags India vegan plant-based Vitamins

India’s vegan supplement firm Unived has launched wholly plant-based multivitamins and vitamin B complex capsules to tackle what it believes was a major gap in the local market.

While synthetically made ingredients are generally accepted under the vegan concept, the firm – which is certified by The Vegan Society from the UK – has gone a step further by only using plant-based ingredients.

“Synthetic vitamins can also be called vegan. But these new vitamin products that we have are not synthetic,”​ Amit Mehta, Unived’s founder and CEO told NutraIngredients-Asia.

“We replace the synthetic, animal, and dairy ingredients with natural plant-based ingredients.”

Examples include using replacing the synthetic vitamin K1 ingredient phylloquinone or phytonadione with fermented chickpeas and synthetic vitamin A acetate and vitamin A palmitate with beta-carotene from dunaliella salina.

Examples of replacing animal source include using cholecalciferol from lichen instead of lanolin from sheep wool as a source of vitamin D3. Algae-based brown seaweed is also used to provide omega-3 instead of fish oil. 

On the other hand, the firm also replaced whey protein with pea protein in its sports recovery product. 

Mehta said that using plant-based ingredients could also enhance the bioavailability of the active ingredients. 

A natural source contains co-factors that come with the nutrients in nature. For instance, some co-factors that are usually found with vitamin C are various bioflavonoids.

Synthetic vitamins are made in a laboratory setting and no co-factors are present. The main advantage of using natural plant-based vitamins is the numerous nutrients and phytochemicals which influence its bioavailability,”​ he said.

The firm is currently working on a plant-based collagen, with plans to release it in the upcoming one to two months’ time.

Growing vegan interest

The vegan supplement concept has gained traction in India in the last two to three years, with the firm seeing a 12% yoy sales growth from FY18 to FY19, Mehta revealed.

“When we first started in 2010, many people do not understand what is vegan.

“In the last two to three years, more started to gain knowledge about vegan products, partly because some of the Bollywood stars are going vegan and vegan became the buzz-word,”​ he said.

Currently, most consumers are from the metro cities, and those from the second and third tier cities are catching up on the trend.

Over 1,000 trials

Also a manufacturer of sports nutrition, the firm has introduced its range of products for endurance activities under the brand ‘Unived Elite’ in the US, UK, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Australia in the past two months.

One of the flagship items is an energy gel which contains simple to complex carbohydrate in the ratio of 2:1.

Mehta said the firm had engaged professional endurance athletes from the US and India in developing the ‘Unived Elite’ range of products and over 1,000 product trials were conducted with professional athletes during its two-year R&D period.

“With the complex carbohydrates, the energy crash from the intake of the simple carbohydrates is prevented because the complex carbohydrates start breaking down only after some time, hence, it continues to sustain one with energy,” ​he said.

"Simple carbohydrates can be absorbed at 1g/minute or 60g/hour. However, when we ingest a 2:1 ratio of simple to complex carbohydrates, we can absorb 90g/hour, as they are oxidized via different pathways, SGLT1 and GLUT5.

"This provides a superior advantage to the athlete, as not only is a spike and drop in energy prevented, but they are able to achieve maximum carbohydrate absorption, allowing for peak performance."

The product is positioned to marathon, ultra-marathon runners and sportsmen who engage in endurance activities for more than two hours.

New production site

The firm is now planning to build a new production site as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

It will replace the firm's current factory located 1.5 hours outside of Mumbai. Like the current factory, the new factory will also be responsible for manufacturing all of the firm's products. 

On the other hand, the current COVID-19 pandemic has affected the firm’s sales, with a drop in the purchase of sports nutrition products. The firm also faced restrictions in delivering products to the pandemic hotspots in India. 

“The sales of our sports nutrition products have also dropped because marathons etc were cancelled. However, the sales of our vitamins and superfoods have increase and this has helped to sustain the business.

“We just have to be patient for the upcoming months,”​ Mehta said.

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