About 2 in 5 Indians seek multifunctional benefits in food and drink, Mintel research reveals

December 20, 2023

Mintel’s latest research highlights the increasing interest among Indian consumers in adopting functional foods as part of their quest for health and wellbeing. Multifunctionality is the most sought-after feature, indicating a far greater impact than products offering a single benefit (45% vs 18%).

While energy (53%) and immunity (52%) top the list of benefits Indians are interested in, it is noteworthy that benefits associated with sleep (51%) and mood (50%) are gaining traction.

The functional food category is emerging in India, with on-pack functional claims on food launches rising from 12% to 16% in the five years leading up to August 2023, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. This places India ahead of other markets, such as the US, China and the UK for functional food launches. For example, between September 2021 and August 2023, India’s launches stood at 13%, compared to 6% in those three markets, respectively.

Additionally, Mintel research reveals that three in 10 consumers have consumed foods with added health benefits across different food categories in the three months to June 2023, with energy bars and packaged dahi/yogurt being the most popular choices (38% each). This aligns with trends observed in product launches, with breakfast cereals (45%), followed by dairy (26%), as the top categories offering products with added health benefits.

Anamika Banerji, PhD, Food and Drink Analyst, Mintel Reports India, said:

“The growing focus on health is likely to give impetus to the interest in functional foods as a means to achieve holistic well-being. Indian consumers expect functional food and drink products to deliver all-round health benefits, addressing both the physical and mental or emotional aspects of well-being. Also, functional food consumers trust these products to help them fulfill their nutritional requirements. 

“The fact that consumers are paying more attention to the foods and drinks they consume, wanting to be more aware and in control of their food choices, benefits the functional food category. The more consumers read and examine on-pack ingredients and health claims, the more likely they are to try functional foods.”

Ingredients check: Consumers demand transparency

Indian consumers are increasingly interested in understanding product ingredients and nutritional information: 52% of consumers expect a brand offering healthy food/drink to provide healthy ingredients, and 46% are keen on ingredient transparency.

Fruit- and vegetable-based ingredients are top-of-mind when choosing functional foods, each accounting for 54%. Millet and ayurvedic herbs are emerging ingredients of interest, each at 26%.

Consumers are vigilant when choosing functional foods. About a third of consumers — particularly those who are financially healthy (31%) and those living in Western India (32%) and metros (33%) — are clear about the fact that they will adopt functional foods if they are convinced about their effect.

Consumers rely more on scientific evidence (26%) when choosing a packaged food product with added health benefits than user testimonials/reviews (22%) or celebrity endorsements (20%), according to Mintel research. At the same time, consumers can find it difficult to interpret on-pack nutritional charts and their implications on daily health and well-being. For example, 28% of Indians aged 18-34 (compared to 24% of those aged over 35) say ‘displays the amount of nutrients on packaging in comparison with whole foods’ is a motivating factor when choosing foods with added health benefits.

“Economic and environmental uncertainties have made consumers more conscientious shoppers, and the necessity for brands to be transparent has never been more critical, as highlighted by Mintel’s consumer trend Prove It

“Manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers are under scrutiny and need to address the lack of information on their labels, even substantiating the claims they make. This reflects a broader consumer expectation of transparency and detailed information about the products they consume,” concluded Banerji.

Additional research on functional foods and interviews with the analyst are available upon request from the Mintel Press Office. For those interested in purchasing the full report, please visit the Mintel Store.

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