Posted on Sep 08, 2021, 9 a.m.
The immunity category falls into the preventive wellness sector, which is a $4 billion market in India alone. Pandemic has changed the preventive wellness market as people across socio-economic sectors have slowly started embracing preventive health products.
The immunity-boosting market is projected to reach $347 million by 2026. The immunity category in the FMCG portfolio was just 3.9% in 2019 but grew to 13.5% in 2020. And it’s a no-brainer that this unprecedented growth in this category can be attributed to COVID-19 and the fear and anxiety associated with it.
There was an increasing consciousness and focus on preventive health in the last few years, but it became an important category and a growing concern since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. Some may think that this is a temporary phenomenon and may see a pass in years to come. But, the pandemic has been so long-drawn and has left an indelible fear of health in people’s lives that the immunity-boosting category will perhaps continue to grow, albeit not so steeply.
The immunity category falls into the preventive wellness sector, which is a $4 billion market in India. Indians have been more disposed towards curative wellness solutions (take precautions after specific symptoms, diseases or seek treatment) and were inclined to homeopathic or ayurvedic solutions apart from immediate allopathic treatment. Preventive wellness held a small share in the wellness market, and it was seen more like an urban phenomenon before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has changed things, and people across socio-economic sectors have slowly started embracing preventive health products. This category includes nutraceuticals, food items, supplements, health beverages, etc.
People, including millennials and Gen Z, are going back to roots and their kitchens to find traditional methods of immunity-boosting. Households are moving to ‘kadhas’ and turmeric milk. But the busy families in tiers 1 and 2 are looking for affordable and reliable solutions from marketers. Many companies have taken the lead and introduced a completely new range, including turmeric-based products like milk, tulsi, giloy drops and tulsi green tea. Pharma companies have seen a steep rise in sales of Vitamin C and zinc supplements. People have developed a fear about their health and hence are changing habits by making some rituals a part of their daily routine- like drinking warm water with tulsi and giloy drops in the morning, or consuming turmeric milk before bedtime. The fear of COVID-19 has seen even skeptics trying new immunity-boosting products. Many traditional households are going back to making ‘kadhas’ at home, whereas marketers have found this an exciting opportunity to cater to modern urban families. As many launched chyawanprakash, ‘kadha’ Zinc, and Vitamin C fortified health drinks.
Companies that were already offering products in the immunity category have leveraged the sudden growth in demand and have introduced many new products. The demand is so huge and opportunity so lucrative that even small organizations, homegrown local start-ups have cashed onto it. They have also entered the market with immunity-boosting food products. Third-party logistics companies have made it easy for these small start-ups to reach prospective customers at less cost.
Companies, both large and small, need to oversee this trend. There is no doubt that the immunity-boosting category is growing and will settle higher even after the pandemic. However, growth and consumption may not be even close to optimist trends seen today because:
- Once life gets back to ‘normal,’ people will get busy with their work routine, office, and home responsibilities. Many rituals which are possible now may not be possible then as people will not be spending as much time at home.
- Disposition towards natural, ayurvedic, and traditional products will remain high compared to chemicals as an ingredient and medicinal offerings.
- Many of these consumption habits are out of fear. People have lost their loved ones to COVID-19 or seen deaths around them. The “it can’t happen to me” phenomenon was no longer applicable as the second wave impacted everyone in some or the other way. But the agile nature of human beings allows them to move on pretty quickly with their lives. Memories and pain become a passe. Once the cause of fear is over, people will not follow these routines assiduously and move on or away from these products. Though some products like adding Tulsi to morning cup of tea or having turmeric milk at night may stay; regular consumption of many products and food items will fade away. Many products under immunity-boosting category will continue to enjoy good market share, whereas others like kadhas etc., may not be that profitable as their demand will stagnate or become occasion-specific. Hence, marketers should allocate their resources and marketing money wisely as most consumption driven by fear of infection may fade out.
- The convenience of use and consumption will remain important for this category. Today consumers could be seeking out products and finding ones that suit their needs, but with time, this will also become like other items in the basket which will sell if their purchase, use, and consumption are convenient and easy.
- Many marketers are jumping the bandwagon and repositioning the existing products on the immunity platform. Many existing brands that were previously positioned on aspects like growth, energy, etc., are also repositioning or adding immunity to their promise. Such a move can confuse consumers and dilute the existing proposition. Brands need to be true to consumers today more than ever. There is already a lot of uncertainty around consumers, and they would never let confusing brands enter their homes.
The trust and credibility of these offerings are a critical challenge. Qualitative research among millennials and Gen Z showed that consumers are more comfortable choosing products from small start-ups and local homegrown companies. Just as Gen Xers, they also believe that large organizations are cashing on opportunities and repackaging ‘old wine in a new bottle.’ Brand legacy and established equity hence become important. The sector is no doubt lucrative but not for everyone to leverage on.
Lastly, education on the category, the importance of immunity-boosting products, and what could be taken under what conditions are all aspects that are still vague for users. They are driven by what consumers hear and know from their personal experiences. Brands need to invest in creating awareness around the category and its various offerings. This would probably help sustain the growth immunity products are witnessing even after the pandemic is over.
This article was written by Dr. Ashita Aggarwal, a Professor of Marketing at Bhavan’s SPJIMR (S.P.Jain Institute of Management & Research) on ETHealthWorld.
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As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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