What do you think is taking up a lot of time of manufacturers the world over? It would seem that technology is making our life much easier though we are still getting stressed. Internet has democraticised information available to us at the speed of light. Mobile phones are connecting the world and bridging the gaps in infrastructure like never done before. We are going to live longer and medicine has made tremendous progress allowing us a much better quality of life than our forefathers had. Internet is making it easier to spread literacy in remote areas not easily accessible otherwise. In our bid to grow as a consumer oriented global economy, the environment is taking the rap. However, there is greater awareness of fast dwindling natural resources and danger to the eco system. This has resulted in strong measures from corporates and governments.

With change in lifestyle, one thing that affects us all everyday and concerns us greatly is health and vitality. Companies are spending a lot of time and money to address this issue. And I am not talking about just pharmaceutical companies. In a recent legislation New York Health Board has banned most trans fats to be used in restaurants. These are modified food ingredients that raise levels of a particularly unhealthy form of cholestrol that is linked to heart disease. They are used in baked goods and fried foods, salad dressings, mayonnaise etc. And if you are thinking what does this have to do with developing economies, think again. Health and vitality are what is taking up a lot of time of global companies operating in developing economies. And the question they are asking is not whether health and vitality claims provide a strong enough competitive advantage, but what do consumers find relevant by way of healthy products from foods to white goods. LG the Korean Chernobyl has built a huge business in India on the promise of health in their durables from television sets to refrigerators to washing machines. They were the first to build ‘the golden eye’ in their TV set to provide relief from over exposure to TV amongst addicts –namely children. Similarly with their refrigerators it was not just keeping food fresh but sealing in the nutrients thus keeping it healthy. It set them apart from the pack.

The journey of the Indian housewife from cooking in ghee, to vanaspati to vegetable oils and to Saffola –positioned as good for the heart- tells the story of how health and vitality are vying for center stage just as much as taste. From loose staples to branded ones, and growth of over-the-counter health tonics and supplements, particularly those meant for children, shows the potential of the market. Dabur Chyavanprash, a brand in this space has updated its image and promises good health for all age groups. It has spawned a number of me-too brands.

The big concern for the mother is the health and vitality of the child. It was always so but it takes on a new dimension where lack of these could result in the performance of the child at school and reduce his competitiveness in the class or on the sports field.
With the growth of middle class and boom in discretionary spending on leisure, travel, eating out and entertainment, there is greater emphasis on keeping fit not just for the husband and the children but for the housewife as well.

Walking clubs, laughter clubs, yoga, gyms and spas are growing and availale for every income segment. And it does not stop there. As women move into careers, grooming and appearance is becoming important. The growth in cosmetics, skincare and personal toiletries is an indication of the trend. In China they make up the third largest industry. Most foreign brands at the top end and mid price range are already in India or coming soon.
Global food companies like Nestle, Unilever, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Johnson and Johnson are now focusing on how to make their brand portfolio more health driven and how to be relevant to consumers.

Nestle has already added iced tea and water, Pepsi is getting into energy drinks and fruit juices and fruit based drinks, McDonald’s burgers are getting healthier and they have started serving salads so that there is something for mothers too.
Enviromental concerns are health related too. In Delhi, for example, public transport has moved from diesel to CNG bringing down pollution. Water pollution has seen growth in the sales of water filters and distilled water. It may not look like much but things are beginning to move and the first mover will reap the benefits.

Can you think of how you can tap into the platform of health and vitality in your industry? Further, how can you make it relevant for the consumer?