Nestle India finds a sweet spot in elderly Indians

In the next two quarters, Nestle India will introduce healthcare products suitable for nutritional needs of the ageing population


On Monday, Nestle relaunched malt-based health drink Milo, a product it withdrew from Indian market about 10 years ago.  Photo: HT
On Monday, Nestle relaunched malt-based health drink Milo, a product it withdrew from Indian market about 10 years ago. Photo: HT

New Delhi: After ensuring its dominance in the baby food segment and making Maggi instant noodles a favourite staple for the young generation, the local arm of Swiss packaged food company Nestle SA has set its eyes on elderly Indians. In the next two quarters, Nestle India Ltd will introduce healthcare products suitable for nutritional needs of the ageing population, chairman and managing director Suresh Narayanan said here on Monday.

At present, about 60% of Nestle India’s revenue comes from the younger population (aged below 40 years) and most of the rest from the infants and children. The company, which already dominates the baby food market with a 63% market share in value terms (according to Euromonitor International) with Lactogen, Cerelac, Nan, Nestum and Nestogen, will continue to enhance its portfolio in the infant nutrition category.

On Monday, it relaunched malt-based health drink Milo, a product it withdrew from Indian market about 10 years ago. Interestingly, Nestle relaunched Milo in ready-to drink format and not the powdered form popular in India.

“We would build healthcare as a category with products that take care of health-related issues, such as diabetes. Nutrition and fortification are other key areas,” Narayanan added.

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Globally, Nestle has a strong presence in healthcare. Its Boost, Nutren and Resource are sold as products for the ageing population to address nutritional needs for weight management and age-related diseases like diabetes and post-cancer treatment. Products like Impact and Peptamen are for critical care needs, Optifast is sold as a product that helps in fighting obesity.

“The products we are evaluating to bring will be sold through hospitals, and some will be sold as prescription items. We will also start importing special nutritional products that address needs of the ‘inborn errors of metabolism’ among children which the regulator (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has allowed in August last year,” said Narayanan.

One of the reasons Nestle is looking at building the category is that it expects to be ready before India gets older. At present, 65% of India’s population is less than 35 years of age and the ones above 60 is about 9%. According to Helpage International, a global non-profit, this proportion will increase to 12.5% by 2030 and 19.4% by 2050.

“It’s not about the next 5 or 10 years, which we can and will address, through the penetration game, along with differentiated products. But we need to be ready for the next 100 years,” he added.

Nestle already has a wide presence across chemists because of its dominance in the baby food category, and claims to have good connect with top hospital chains. “The kind of products we are planning to launch will require a different kind of sales force which we have been building for the past 5-7 years.”

According to Narayanan, the company will continue to reduce sugar across product range, including chocolates, and will increase fortification (a process to add micro-nutrients in food items) wherever possible. “We want to ensure healthy life of our consumers,” he added.

In the existing segments, Nestle will look at launching more ready-to-drink products, functional beverages and even products like a sugar-less chocolate (dark chocolate). One of the selling propositions for these products will be the health benefits, such as calorie count. It already sells Nestea, (a ready-to-make iced tea) with the claim that a glass of the beverage will have only 40 calories.

Unlike 2016, when it launched about 35 new products, Nestle India will not launch that many products this year. But Narayanan said, 2017 will be “the year of aggression with a purpose” for Nestle India – not in terms of product launches, but in terms of how aggressively the Swiss company pushes its entire portfolio in the top 600 towns in India.

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