Representational image for Ayurveda | Photo: piqsels.com
Representational image for Ayurveda | Photo: piqsels.com
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New Delhi: Aparajita Shrivastava is a chain smoker. So when Covid-19, a respiratory disease, began to wreak havoc across the world, she knew she had to be extra careful since her lungs were already compromised.

“I had never thought of trying immunity-boosting products or taking supplements before the pandemic,” the Hyderabad-based tax consultant tells ThePrint. But for the last three months or so, she has religiously taken her tablets of giloy (an ayurvedic herb also called guduchi), which, she says, she will continue until a vaccine is developed.

She isn’t the only one. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, many Indians are working on the idea that while they cannot control the virus, they can try to keep one’s defences up as well as reduce the impact of any possible comorbidity.

And the proof is in the numbers. Since the pandemic broke out, the sale of immunity boosting products has shot up by 20-40 per cent, while Google searches for such products have increased six-fold, particularly for giloy, vitamin C and ayurvedic home remedies. Meanwhile, the market for hand sanitiser grew four-fold in just two months.

Tulsi, neem, amla, ginger, honey and giloy, whether in juice, supplement capsule or powder form, are all the rage, while even healthy snacks, such as flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, are becoming popular.

Recognising that health and hygiene are now uppermost on every consumer’s mind, wellness product companies have responded with increased manufacturing of existing immunity-boosting products as well as a slew of new ones.

Childhood staple Chyawanprash back in vogue

One of India’s best-known healthcare companies, Dabur is a leading name in ayurvedic and other natural healthcare products. Its Chyawanprash was a staple in many households, with children being given a spoonful of the sweet-sour dark brown paste every morning.
During the pandemic, even though the company’s net profits slumped, it witnessed a 400 per cent spike in demand for Chyawanprash, while Dabur Honey recorded 80 per cent growth.

Karthik Hariharan, Business Head, South, of advertising agency FoxyMoron tells ThePrint, “The realisation that we would be in a Covid-infected world for some time has influenced individuals to adopt preventive measures. Take the case of age-old Chyawanprash that went out of stock for a while. So, be it traditional ingredients with homemade products or supplements, I’d safely say that they’ve been gathering substantial sales and mindspace.”

Health food is another area that is seeing a surge in consumer interest. GAIA is a health food and nutritional supplements brand that is known for its mueslis, Stevia tablets, green teas and low-calorie snacks. Dolly Kumar, Cosmetic Engineer and Founder and Director at Cosmic Nutracos Solutions, the parent company of GAIA, says GAIA is coping with high demand, especially for its health food products and supplements.

It’s not just what one ingests, though. Personal hygiene, too, has become a matter of national interest. The Himalaya Drug Company, which makes a range of popular products such as ayurvedic supplements, shampoos and face washes, has found that its herb pills and PureHands sanitiser, which was launched in 2003 and comes in scents like lemon and litchi, are flying off the shelves. Meanwhile, Emami, which is known for its fairness creams, plans to bring renewed focus to its 100-year-old brand called Zandu.

New products to meet the increased demand

But while old dependables continue to stand consumers in good stead, it is not enough to meet the demand. PureHands sanitiser, for example, was unavailable at several chemists and online for a few weeks after the pandemic struck.

Hariharan explains that there has been an emphasis on innovations and product launches in this area. “Walk to the nearest pharmacy, you’ll see a poster about the products/vitamins supplements with immunity benefits; open a commerce app and you’ll have a banner that says ‘immunity-boosting products’. The search volumes for immunity have peaked in India, so it is natural that brands will add products to that end.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Mohit Malhotra, CEO of Dabur India, says, “On the one hand, we have enhanced production of our existing immunity-building products like Chyawanprash and are ensuring uninterrupted supplies of these to consumers across the country. On the other hand, we are strengthening our portfolio with the introduction of new ready-to-use immunity-booster products.”

Tulsi drops, haldi drops, amla juice, giloy-neem-tulsi juice, Ayush Kwath Kaadha (made of tulsi, cinnamon, shunthi and maricha, it is also recommended by Ministry of AYUSH) and Trikatu Churna (an ayurvedic remedy for throat infection and improving digestion) are some of Dabur’s new immunity offerings.

Malhotra says, “While these are early days, we have been witnessing a strong growth in enquiries for these products. Our (Dabur India’s) speed of innovation, ability to marry ayurvedic knowledge with modern-day science and complete focus on quality are our key strengths.”

Another new offering comes from Zydus Wellness, which owns Complan. It has now fast-tracked its launch of Nycil brand of hand sanitiser. Tarun Arora, CEO of Zydus, says that the pandemic has given the company good reason to speed up the launch of wellness products, and reveals that the team is working on a range of winter products as well.

Cosmic Nutracos’ Kumar says that GAIA is also upping its game with a line of mixed seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed snacks. “Low on calories, these seeds are also a good source of dietary fibre and help maintain cholesterol level.” Kumar said.

New advertisements to reflect the change in messaging

If brands are refocusing to adapt to a ‘Covidian’ world, their advertising has to be equally on point. And that means smart, topical messaging that strikes a chord with viewers who are scared and unsure of what lies ahead.

For instance, malted milk drink brand Horlicks came out with an ad that shows a man making a flask of Horlicks for his wife who is a frontline worker. This is a marked change from its ‘Taller. Stronger. Sharper’ campaign, targeted at kids.

“Horlicks has traditionally been a drink for kids, who, in general, are more vulnerable to diseases and need immunity boosters. However, amid the pandemic, there’s a much stronger case for adults to build immunity, too,” Anusheela Saha, Group Creative Director at FCB Ulka who works on Horlicks ads, tells ThePrint.

“The old product has always been an immunity booster, but we’ve just focused on it even more echoing the current need of the market.”

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