Immunity and sports: India’s MuscleBlaze launches ashwagandha-enriched whey protein
The product, known as Biozyme Immunity Whey, is launched in response to changes in consumption behaviour amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is the third products launched under the MuscleBlaze Biozyme Series. The uniqueness of the series is that the whey protein used is specifically developed for better absorption amongst the Indian population.
This is also the first time that the brand – whose parent company is Bright Lifecare – has launched a sports nutrition product with an ayurvedic herb added in it.
The herb used is the proprietary ingredient KSM-66 ashwagandha. Each serving of the immunity whey protein contains 400mg of KSM-66 ashwagandha root extract.
The extract is a clinically-research ingredient developed by Hyderabad-based Ixoreal Biomed, it was also the winner of the Ingredient of the Year (sports nutrition) for NutraIngredients-Asia awards 2018.
“We are using ashwagandha because India has a background of ayurvedic science. But it is difficult to get a standardised ashwagandha product. KSM-66 ashwagandha is chosen because it is clinically-researched and is a standardised ingredient,” Kaustuv Paliwal, head of department for the MuscleBlaze brand told NutraIngredients-Asia.
The product is specially developed as a two-in-one solution for its core consumers – individuals who exercise at least four times per week – allowing them to enjoy high protein absorption and immune support at the same time.
“We noticed that a lot of our customers were having whey protein and also purchasing extra products for immunity, so we launched a two-in-one product to take care of their immunity and protein requirements,” Kaustuv said.
Building up immunity portfolio
In fact, over the past one month, the company had launched three other immune-boosting supplements. Prior to that, the company only focused on sports nutrition products.
They include a multivitamin, a standalone vitamin C, and a vitamin product with zinc added.
“What we observed was that our consumer behaviours have changed to an area where immunity has become a part of the life and the consumer wants to do some exercise activities to increase their immunity.
“We have to react to the changes and provide solutions, that is why we have extended our product line,” he said.
Positioned as a premium product due to use of a clinically researched ingredient, the product is sold at INR$4,000 (US$53) per tin, which is about 40% to 45% more expensive than the usual whey protein that the company sells.
In addition, the brand is launching a plant-based protein powder – its first such product – as it has observed a growing demand for vegan products.
Named as “bGREEN”, the product uses pea and rice protein as its base. The combination in turn complete the amino acid profile otherwise lacking in a plant-based protein powder made from a single plant source.
The company observed that there was a myriad of reasons for the growing vegan trend in the country. It could be due to a preference for vegetarian diet or for environment sustainability.
“There are many reasons for taking vegan products. We do not want to categorise ourselves as a vegan only. We are saying that we are a plant-based solution company for health and fitness,” Kaustuv said.
Similarly, this would be a premium product as it is priced about 1.5 times higher than the usual whey protein.
In terms of R&D challenges, he said that the company had to work around the lower water-solubility and grainy product texture due to the use of plant protein.
E-commerce, the “saviour”
With gyms and supplement stores in India closed due to COVID-19 lockdown, Kaustuv said e-commerce was the “saviour right now”.
The brand’s offline presence is in individually-owned neighbourhood supplement stores, as well as the physical retail stores of e-commerce platform HealthKart – which is also operated by the same parent company as MuscleBlaze.
In fact, he pointed out that there was a low demand for sports nutrition product, but the company continued to launch new products to keep the portfolio updated and to provide solutions for existing consumers.
Another main challenge faced was supply chain problem as a result of uncertainties in lockdown policies across different Indian states.
For example, a state with large number of COVID-19 cases might not allow stores to be opened, while others might allow stores to be opened on certain days or reduced hours.
“The main thing is, for a brand, there is no stability right now, but hopefully, the situation will change in coming months. Fortunately for us (the sales) have not been impacted at any major levels,” he said.