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Surprisingly, figures on the size of the Indian market for ayurvedic products are hard to come by (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
Surprisingly, figures on the size of the Indian market for ayurvedic products are hard to come by (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Opinion | Pandemic accelerates growth in ayurvedic food, nutrition market

Startups are upbeat about the growing opportunity, as they quickly fill in the need gaps

It’s raining ayurvedic products. From big fast-moving consumer goods firms to young startups, everyone’s lining up ayurveda-based nutrition and wellness foods, riding on a spike in demand for traditional brews and blends in a world suffering its worst health crisis.

On the one hand, Dabur Ltd, already known for its ayurvedic and herbal products, is witnessing a huge surge in demand for its flagship immunity booster Dabur Chyawanprash and Dabur Honey. On the other, startups are looking to scale up their businesses to take advantage of the growing clamour for ayurvedic preventive healthcare products. Dabur has already launched a slew of immunity boosters such as Tulsi Drops, Giloy-Neem-Tulsi juice and an immunity kit. More innovations are in the pipeline in view of the shift in consumer preference.

But it is really startups that are most upbeat about the opportunity, as they quickly fill in the need gaps. Ameve Sharma, co-founder, Kapiva Ayurveda, and scion of the Baidyanath group, which specializes in ayurvedic medicines, admits that covid-19 has accelerated consumer awareness and consumer demand. But Kapiva, he said, was growing even before the pandemic.

For a company that started out as a retail model to create a chain of ayurveda clinics, Sharma quickly pivoted to being what he calls a “pure-play FMCG business". “We expect to touch 100 crore turnover next year," he said, adding that there has been a rise in demand for his products in the past four months. Kapiva offers a range of herbal juices, powders and candies, gourmet honey and nutritional shakes. On the cards is a multigrain Kapiva breakfast, details of which Sharma is reluctant to share.

“Ayurveda is more preventive than curative. It is a lifestyle solution. We wanted to offer a modern take on ayurveda that resonates with the consumers," Sharma said.

Initially thought to be a metro-centric brand with its slightly premium pricing, online demand for Kapiva now comes from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. “In the last five years, customers have become proactive about health. They worry even about things like quality of sleep. With longer working hours, increased pollution and decline in the quality of food, they need to build immunity," Sharma said.

V.S. Kannan Sitaram, venture partner, Fireside Ventures, which has invested in Kapiva, said there’s a definite consumer traction for foods and supplements that are natural or ayurveda-based. “In India, health and wellness was a building trend. It’s now grabbing even more attention," Sitaram said, adding that organic food companies will also do well.

At Delhi-based Upakarma Ayurveda, co-founder Vishal Kaushik is also dealing with a surge in demand for its products, especially Ashwagandha, which helps the body cope with stress. The two-year-old brand is available at around 10,000 stores across 10 states and offers almond oil, shilajit resin and premium saffron. In the pipeline is Ayushkwath, a kadha (home remedy made from kitchen spices and herbs for cough and cold) recommended by the Ayush ministry to build immunity against covid.

On popular demand, the company is also getting into chyawanprash, herbal juices like aloe vera, giloy and amla. For consumers who cannot afford the bigger juice packs, Upakarma is launching immunity building drops from ginger, tulsi, amla and giloy. Kaushik said the company has been growing at 100% a year and expects to maintain the pace.

Surprisingly, figures on the size of the Indian market for ayurvedic products are hard to come by. Kaushik, however, estimates the international market, which is also turning to ayurveda wellness products, at $4.5 billion. The Indian market is growing at 30% a year, he said. With covid taking its toll, consumer demand for ayurvedic supplements has shot up and is likely to attract more startups to the space. Kaushik said all his vendors and suppliers are reporting a surge in queries and demand for raw material. The supply chain may see some shortages if demand spikes further. He also expects more private cultivators jumping into herbal plantations to meet this growing demand.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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