New Delhi: Rasna, the maker of the famous 1980s orange drink concentrate, has entered the malt-based health drink category with chocolate-flavoured Honey Vita and almond-flavoured Badam Vita under its health products range Native Haat.

Targeted primarily at children, Honey Vita distinguishes itself as a health drink with less sugar content than its competitors namely, Mondelez’s Cadbury Bournvita, GSK’s Boost and Complan. With such a claim, the company has pitted itself against Patanjali Ayurveda’s health drink Power Vita which also claims to be a natural alternative to existing malt-based drinks in the market.

“There’s a lot of activity happening in the hot beverage space and people are looking at differentiated products," said Piruz Khambatta, chairman and managing director, Rasna Pvt. Ltd. “Sugar has become one of the key concerns for consumers and all brown beverages contain a lot of it. Since it is difficult to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners in a category mostly targeted at children, we have decided to reduce the sugar content and introduce honey. The idea was to create a product which can compete with Bournvita, Complan and Horlicks but with the goodness of honey," he said.

Aggressively priced, starting at single serving sachet (both the flavours) for 5, Honey Vita is available in stock keeping units (SKUs) of 100g, 500g and 600g while Badam Vita can be purchased in 200g SKU. Rasna’s entry in the segment comes at a time when the growth of malt-based beverages in India has slowed down from 13.2% in 2014 to 8.6% in 2017, according to Euromonitor International. Almost all malt-based brands are feeling the heat with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare likely to sell Horlicks to Unilever while Kraft Heinz Co. having already sold Complan to Zydus Wellness Ltd last month.

Khambatta, however, thinks that consumers, especially, in small towns, are increasingly looking at healthier hot beverage options. “I believe this category has potential for growth as mothers are willing to spend money on nutritious products especially from tier 2 and 3 towns," he said.

Rasna will sell both the malt drinks through its extensive distribution network focused on top 30 towns. The products are also available on the e-commerce platform Amazon. The company has earmarked 25 crore for marketing the products and brought ace badminton player Saina Nehwal as the face of the entire Native Haat range, which also includes pure honey launched last year.

Khambatta is betting big on the new natural Native Haat range which is expected to contribute 30% to the company’s overall revenues in the next five years. Expressing his reservation about Rasna’s chances of success in the malt drink category, Abneesh Roy, senior vice president at Edelweiss Securities Pvt. Ltd said, “Malt based drinks is a tough category. Moreover, in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment, first-mover advantage that lies with dominant players always works. The challenger brands tend to find it extremely difficult to make a cut. Patanjali’s Power Vita, for instance, has not done anything remarkable and so is the case with global firm Nestle whose brand Milo did not work in India."

Besides, he feels that Honey Vita’s brand proposition of low sugar doesn’t seem convincing as for children taste takes a precedence over health benefits. “Associating Rasna with a malt drink is also difficult as its brand equity lies in the orange drink concentrate segment," he added.

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