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From Ayurvedic kadhas to herbal meals: Immunity boosters are now serious business

Even as the concept of a healthy body and strong immune system have been part of India’s culture since times immemorial, "before Covid times, immunity-boosting was not very focused".

Written by Jayashree Narayanan | Pune |
Updated: July 15, 2020 8:32:04 pm
immunity, immunity boosters, immunity boosting proucts, herbals, kadha, narendra modi ayurveda, unani,, indianexpress Traditional Indian spices and herbs which are known to boost immunity find more takers in the COVID-19 times. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Immunity has become a buzzword during the COVID-19 crisis and building the body’s defence through food and herbal concoctions or even serious lifestyle changes are among the top priorities. The government, doctors as well as COVID-19 survivors themselves have time and again reaffirmed the need to build immunity and stay protected. While there is no scientifically proven direct link between one’s lifestyle and enhanced immune function, there is a growing consensus on the need to live a more balanced life.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, has repeatedly noted how “enhancing the body’s natural defence system or immunity plays an important role in maintaining optimum health”. “We all know that prevention is better than cure. While there is no medicine for COVID-19 as of now, it will be good to take preventive measures which boost our immunity in these times,” he said.

Taking a cue, many players across industries have jumped on the bandwagon and come out with immunity-boosting offerings. In fact, as health and well-being become high priorities, digital search queries have recently pivoted towards “immunity” (+500 per cent), noted a May 2020 Google report ‘What is India searching for? Insights for brands’. The search also noted how searches for Vitamin C, which grew by 40 per cent in 2019, have surged by over 150 per cent in recent weeks, as have queries for herbs with medicinal properties like giloy (+380 per cent) and Ayurvedic home remedies like kadha (+90 per cent).

“In the last couple of months, we have observed a spike in the sale of immunity-supporting SKUs (stock keeping units) by almost three times, including the herbal range supporting immunity and respiratory health. Pre-empting a rise in demand for immunity and hygiene products, we are gearing up to ramp up production of these SKUs by four times in coming months. Going by the present development, we foresee this nutrition category growing faster with the current contribution of 56 to 65 per cent to the overall business,” Anshu Budhraja, CEO, Amway India told Amway recently entered into a strategic partnership with ITC to co-create products in the health, wellness and immunity space to address the anticipated demand.

“As the world adjusts to a new normal, we believe the brands need to be cognisant of the permanent behavioural shift in consumption patterns to re-think their portfolios and meet them with agility through innovative products,” he said.

Amway’s Nutrilite portfolio offers a range of immunity-supporting products, including Nutrilite Natural C, Echinacea, Tulsi, Vasaka, Mulethi and Surasa, amongst others. “Some of the ingredients in these nutrition products include Acerola Cherry — one of nature’s most concentrated forms of Vitamin C; Echinacea – an ingredient that helps support the body’s defence system; herbal ingredients known to support immunity and respiratory health such as tulsi, ashwagandha, vasaka, mulethi, and surasa and so on,” Budhraja said

Much like the adage goes, you are what you eat (or drink), popular brands like Delhi-NCR based milk supplier Mother Dairy recently launched haldi or turmeric milk to boost immunity. “Made with concentrated turmeric extract, each bottle delivers same benefit as taking one teaspoon of haldi powder in milk,” the Mother Dairy said in a statement.

Keeping pace with the trend, south India-based Dairy Day has launched its “Dairy Day Plus Haldi Ice Cream”, which they claim offers the goodness of haldi, pepper and honey with “no artificial flavours and colours”.

The stress towards immunity also prompted restaurants like Out Of The Blue and Deli By The Blue to introduce “Healthy Immunity Booster Combo meals” in the price range of Rs 575-675, which they claim helps to “provide you with the right nutrients”. With four variants in the combo meals – two vegetarian and non-vegetarian options – the meals include Penne Masala Mafia, Mini Spinach and Corn Quiche, Hazelnut Chocolate Pastry, Tiramisu Delight Ice Tea, Honey Garlic Prawns, Messy BBQ Chicken Wings, Grilled Fish in Parsley Sauce and Coffee Chocolate Opera Pastry.

“These combo meals are a perfect amalgamation of all the key ingredients like broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, garlic, dark chocolate, lime, parsley, cinnamon, etc. Dark chocolate comprises antioxidants named theobromine, which helps in boosting the immune system,” said Juliano Rodrigues, executive chef at Out Of The Blue and Deli By The Blue. Currently, the combo meals are available at Out Of the Blue through home delivery via delivery apps Swiggy and Zomato.

Not just food, herbal concoctions or kadha that make use of the kitchen spices are witnessing a high demand, which have prompted Unani medicine-backed Hamdard Laboratories to consider relaunching some of their earlier products. “There are a few products in the pipeline. We have just launched Ayush Joshanda – a health promotive product. Hamdard has 600 medicines, so we don’t necessarily require many new products as much as revisit them and relaunch them. The traditional medicine basket has some amazing products such as Joshina, Imyoton, Infunza, Kulzum, and Chyawanprash and we are definitely looking at bringing them to the fore,” Suman Varma, chief marketing officer, Hamdard Laboratories (Medicine Division), told He said the offerings contain “ingredients like tulsi, mulethi, amaltas, unnab, saplstan, amla, giloy, neem, etc” that are known for their preventive nature and ability to fight chronic illnesses.

Why are these offerings flooding the market? Even as the concept of a healthy body and strong immune system have been part of India’s culture since times immemorial, “before Covid times, immunity-boosting was not very focused” and was considered when someone was unwell, said Varma.

“India is a land of herbs and spices that are rich in medicinal properties and have been part of every Indian kitchen and grandmothers’ remedies. Given the current scenario, where the only cure/weapon against coronavirus is to have a strong immunity system, consumer perception has changed drastically towards preventive healthcare and medication. Individuals are now eager on investing in immunity building treatments that are herbal/natural to fight various anti-microbial infections. Kadha is the best example of how home remedial solution made of herbs and spices are being consumed by one and all,” she said.

Concurring, Budhraja notes how the ongoing public health crisis has “heightened the awareness for strong immunity and overall well-being”, drawing significant focus to the segment. “This mega trend of holistic and preventative approach to wellness is expected to drive category growth for Amway, therefore, we have coined the term ‘What’s IN’ where IN stands for Immunity and Nutrition,” he said.

Chef Rodrigues believes that the inclination towards organic, locally produced and sourced foods has also pushed consumers to go the extra mile to maintain their health. “For example, millets and fox nuts have made a comeback and are a trend. Opting for locally sourced products also supports our local farmers and eventually the economy,” he mentioned.

Ask Varma if the health trend is merely a short-term ‘marketing gimmick’, she asserts that with “consumers prioritising their health, wellness, and sanitisation” to avoid infection and stay safe, brands that are invested in wellness and healthcare will play a vital role to meet consumer requirements. “We believe in offering scientific wellness and health solutions to consumers rather than creating panic among them,” said Varma.

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📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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