Mumbai: It is grandma’s standard cure for cuts and burns but now Indians want it in their juice.
Aloe vera juices are fast turning into an in-demand category in the estimated Rs2,500-crore juice market as Indian consumers seek healthier alternatives to packaged fruit juices that often contain additional sugar and sweeteners.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that primarily grows in arid areas. The thick, spiky leaf contains the pulpy aloe vera gel that we commonly associate with cosmetics firms and skincare products.
Now, smaller brands are offering an entire portfolio of aloe vera blended fruit juices to make the somewhat bland aloe vera extract more interesting for consumers who want to be health conscious but are not necessarily on a strict diet.
One such brand is Yoga Pulp, run by Mumbai-based K.G. Functional Beverages. Founder Nitin Gupta, who also owns a celebrity gym Sykz in Mumbai’s Lokhandwala suburb, said he first thought of selling aloe vera juices when he was at a farmers’ market in San Francisco.
“I was there looking at fresh fruits and right there, there were people participating in the first World Yoga Day", Gupta said. “It was then that the brand name came to me—Yoga Pulp."
“Aloe vera was completely different from what was available in the market, and it made sense to mix it with fruits to make (the ingredient) more mainstream", he said.
With a yoga performer as its logo, Yoga Pulp now sells 9 variants including Kharbooja (Muskmelon) and Strawberry, all blended with aloe vera under the tagline “Health is an inside job". The brand sells pet bottles of 300ml for Rs35 each and in 1 litre bottles as well. Gupta says the company is available in 10,000-15,000 retail outlets and sells nearly 750,000 bottles a month. “Fifteen thousand is nothing, we are a very small brand. With some funding and a bigger sales force, we can reach 50,000 outlets and easily double our sales volume per month", Gupta said.
Yoga Pulp started out with a manufacturing partner Axiom Ayurveda, a small firm in Ambala, Punjab, that also sells aloe vera fruit juices under the brand name “Alo Frut" with variants like berries and kiwi.
Now Yoga Pulp has moved to other third-party manufacturers with a facility in Surat. “Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, and Gujarat are the four areas where we are stronger than others," Gupta said.
The aloe-vera juice trend hit its peak in the US and UK in the last two years as health conscious consumers are using aloe vera juice and edible supplements to take care of their skin “from inside out". Countless nutrition and wellness blogs tout benefits of aloe vera juice that range from lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, clearing up the skin, healing the digestive system, to even to reduce chronic pain.
While the science behind these so called benefits are under debate, there is a gap in the market as Indian consumers look for aloe vera juices.
Some existing brands have been selling the juice as a therapy or medicinal supplement, including ayurvedic giant Patanjali along with amla (gooseberry), and lauki (bottle gourd) juices. Patanjali recommends its aloe juice “ghritkumari saar’" for “acidity, gas, digestion problem, joint pain" and “many more diseases".
That’s hardly attractive for consumers who are simply looking for something healthier to replace their go-to fruit drink, especially in the summer season. “I realized this at a fair, when we were sampling Yoga Pulp juices, there was a child who was immediately turned off when I told him the juice was made with aloe vera", Gupta said.
“Of course, everyone wants to be healthy with good taste", said Harminder Sahni, founder and managing director of retail advisory firm Wazir Advisors. “This is happening from the time of my generation with bitter allopathic medicines that came with a sugar coating. People might want to drink aloe vera but they like the taste of mango more, so this strategy makes sense."
Consumer trends analysts say the current wave of health and wellness trends in demand for consumer packaged goods is helping more niche products like these aloe vera juices.
“People want to be healthy, and they are looking for more natural ingredients than ‘man-made’ ones like artificial health supplements", Sahni said. “Like olive oil became a story, aloe vera is riding on that health wave. Tomorrow, it may be something (another food item) else."
This so-called wave is already a major factor that is helping the juice market in India grow. “The increasing numbers of health-conscious consumers in India, especially in the country’s urban areas, who are more focused on functionality and nutrition in their beverages rather than just their thirst quenching properties and convenience drove the positive sales growth seen in juice in 2016," consumer research firm Euromonitor said in a report from April this year. It estimated that India’s juice market—segmented into pure juice, concentrates, and nectars—is set to grow at 17% compound annual growth rate to reach Rs27,250 crore in value by 2021.