53% of consumers cited digestive health as a key concern, with many looking for natural solutions to improve their digestive health and overall well-being
Indian consumers are increasingly prioritising their digestive health, especially when it comes to their food purchasing decisions. In a recent consumer survey conducted by the market research company InSites, on behalf of BENEO, it was found that 53% of Indian consumers believe that digestive health is very important. This is particularly true in relation to its role in various aspects such as overall physical health, immune function, daily energy levels, weight management and even mood.
This is especially significant considering that 68% of the Indian consumers occasionally suffer from digestive issues such as gastrointestinal problems and constipation, possibly due to imbalanced diets, spicy food or contaminated food or water.
The research also found that two-thirds of Indian consumers are actively choosing foods that will improve their digestive health, such as vegetables and fruit (including fruit juices and smoothies), dairy and cereals. In addition, 77% of them are willing to pay a premium for foods and drinks with a health benefit. Food ingredients that have a ‘natural’ messaging to it — such as chicory root fibre — were also found to be most appealing to 6 out of 10 Indian consumers, and would greatly convince them to buy a new product.
Conscious effort to improve digestive health
Over the past decade, Indians have become more affluent and urbanised. The hectic lifestyles have led to the rise of an ‘obesogenic’ environment, characterized by easily available, high-palatable foods such as convenience foods and snacks with poor nutritional value.
These diet changes are putting the country at higher risk for possibly deadly diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease — not just in urban areas, but in rural ones too. Recognising that digestive health forms an integral part of one’s overall health will become key to Indian consumers making informed choices around their dietary and food preferences.
“While the Indian diet is generally rich in nutritious foods like grains and dairy, the impact of globalisation, changing lifestyles and preference for fast and packaged foods have changed the way the nation eats. The insight from the study revealed a high consumer interest in natural solutions to improve digestive health, both for better overall health as well as for a relief from digestive issues. With inulin and oligofructose being the only plant-based prebiotic fibres, BENEO’s portfolio is well suited to meet the Indian consumer demand for a healthy digestive system,” said Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights, BENEO.
How can food manufacturers aid better food choices?
Indian consumers are already benefitting from the natural inclusion of foods that support digestive health. In a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion people, the consumption of yoghurt (or curd) is an important part of people’s everyday diet. It is typically consumed during or after meals as a way to enhance flavour and aid digestion.
It is reassuring to see that 72% of Indian consumers found that fibre content in their yoghurt is relevant to them, while 64% of them said they are more likely to pay extra for yoghurt with digestive health claims. Consumers today are also more aware that a healthy digestive system reaches out beyond the gut and can impact overall health.
Food manufacturers can cater to this growing demand for high fibre and natural food. For example, by using BENEO’s natural prebiotic fibres from chicory root, manufacturers can improve the nutritional profile of their products, and in turn promote better gut health among consumers by increasing their fibre intake.
The chicory plant — a vegetable cultivated since ancient times — stores extra energy in its roots in the form of inulin. BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose are derived from the chicory root through a gentle hot water extraction method and they are two of the three scientifically proven prebiotics worldwide, according to the International Scientific Association for Pro- and Prebiotics (ISAPP). In addition, they stand out in the market as the only existing prebiotics derived from plant sources. BENEO’s inulin has also been found to be able to induce selective changes in the gut’s microbiota composition that can be directly linked to improved regularity and well-being.
These soluble chicory root fibres appeal to food manufacturers as they can be easily incorporated into foods that we regularly consume, such as dairy products, chocolates, cereals, and baked goods. In addition to its health benefits and natural properties, manufacturers can still maintain the delicious taste of their food products due to the mild and natural taste of chicory root fibres, without compromising on texture. Inulin was also identified as ‘Ingredient of the Year 2020’ by food and beverage consultant Julian Mellentin, due to a confluence of consumer trends for foods that contribute to digestive health and overall well-being. These trends, matched with inulin’s benefits, have caused a surge in demand — with the number of products that feature inulin having doubled between 2012 and 2019.
Focusing on healthier lifestyles
Globalisation and a rising middle class have brought many benefits, such as improved standards of living, for the Indian population. However, with their rising disposable income and busier lifestyles, many Indian consumers are also more susceptible to an imbalanced diet.
Food manufacturers can therefore play a key role in helping consumers build a healthier lifestyle, beginning with their gut health. Incorporating BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose to the Indian consumers’ diet will provide healthier options for them, improving their digestive health, and in the long term — the overall health of the population.
 Insites 2019 Quantitative and Qualitative Consumer Survey on Healthy Lifestyle
(Sample size: 1,015. Representative for the shopper population (70% women/30% men), excluding consumers in challenging financial situations)
 FMCGgurus, 2019
 Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, et al. Gut Published Online First: 17th February 2017 oi:10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313271
Innovations in Food (& Beverage) Technology is a quarterly magazine distributed globally both in Print and Digital formats. www.innovationsfood.com. Twitter: @innovoodtech. Instagram: @innovationsinfoodtechnology. Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/terry-prior52