Express Pharma, DuPont organise discussion on probiotics
Discussions focussed on the potential as well as challenges of making probiotic products part of the Indian consumer’s lifestyle
As the world battles superbugs, lifestyle and chronic diseases on one side and rising healthcare costs on the other, the role of a sound immune system takes on great significance.
Thus, as healthcare moves from curative to preventive, the trend towards consuming supplements to support and enhance our immune system will only get stronger. Answering this need, is the rapid growth of functional foods and supplement products such as probiotics which contribute to improved digestive and immune health addressing health challenges ranging from diarrhoea to upper-respiratory tract illnesses (URTI) such as common cold and atopic eczema. According to EuroMonitor, probiotics is the fastest growing ingredient in the global food supplement market.
The Promise and Power of Probiotics
Recognising the significance of probiotics in health management and disease prevention, Express Pharma in association with DuPont recently organised a round table discussion on ‘The Promise and Power of Probiotics,’ which addressed the nascent industry of probiotics while analysing the challenges. The discussion was moderated by Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor, Express Pharma and Parth Patel, Business Director, South Asia, DuPont Nutrition & Health.
The event held in Mumbai saw experts from sectors including academia, research and sectors spanning food and pharmaceuticals, to share their perspectives and experiences on the science, research as well as the market presence and potential of probiotics in India.
The participants included Dr B Sesikeran, Former Director, National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR); Bharat Jhaver, CEO, Tablets India; Amit Srivastava, BU Head, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories; Dr TSR Murali, Chief R&D Officer, Mother Dairy; Dr Jasvir Singh, Regulatory, Scientific & Government Affairs Leader – South Asia, DuPont Nutrition & Health; Dr Nandan Joshi, Head: Health & Nutrition Science, Danone; Dr Nikhil Bangale, Sr Manager Medical Affairs, Nestle Nutrition India; Ankit Kochhar, Marketing, ITC Foods; Subham Ray, Head Product Development, Technology & QA, Future Consumer and Dr JB Prajapati, Principal and Dean, SMC College of Dairy Science.
The key questions addressed during the round table discussion ranged from the definitions of probiotics as per regulators, the positioning in different markets across the world and how early players in India have modulated their go-to-market strategies based on consumer research. Participants discussed the possible evolution of the Indian market from the existing mix of doctor prescribed probiotics and limited fermented products to a more diverse offering of foods and supplements that could be part of an everyday Indian diet.
The need for industry to build awareness about the relevance of probiotics for preventive healthcare was highlighted. While identifying the roadblocks that could hinder the growth of this segment, stakeholders also look at ways to come together to overcome them. Participants shared insights on the mindset barriers of consumers in India that need to be addressed. Given the increasing interest in probiotics category, wherein there have been new launches ,the participants discussed ways to ensure that probiotic products backed by scientific evidence and real benefits break through the clutter and win the trust of Indian consumers.
Patel summarised the discussion by listing a few key pointers that were raised during the round table and on which all panelists aligned upon. These included:
- Probiotics are useful and documented, yet a lot of work needs to be done to promote efficacy.
- The probiotics industry will grow if the regulations evolve in harmony with global norms.
- Education and awareness among healthcare professionals and consumers need to be broadened leveraging the power of technology.
- Strong clinical evidence will help build trust among consumers.
- Tackling challenges of infrastructure related to cold chain, etc will help the market to grow.
- Research and marketing of prebiotics should also be promoted.
- Innovation should be the key to develop various probiotic food formats. Educating consumers about these unique formats will help in increasing awareness.
- Probiotics is straddling two worlds: medicine and food. The critical aspect to focus on is to tap wellness more positively from a food angle. The notion that food is the best medicine has to be propagated.
A few takeaways by the panellists
Dr Jasvir Singh, Regulatory, Scientific & Government Affairs Leader – South Asia, DuPont Nutrition & Health: The role of a regulator in probiotics space is going to be extremely integral. We already have nutraceutical regulations which cover probiotics, but as it is in the initial stage it needs to be made more stringent to promote good practices. We need to build more specificity so that the benefits can be proven and the products can become part of the approved list.
Dr TSR Murali, Chief R&D Officer, Mother Dairy: There is a need to educate the consumers about the richness and goodness about probiotics.
Dr JB Prajapati, Principal and Dean, SMC College of Dairy Science: Strengthen the relations of industry and academia to promote research in probiotics and to increase governance about it. Also, we need education on probiotics at every level, from primary to professionals.
Dr B Sesikeran, Former Director, National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR): We need to be modest in one’s claims on probiotics as it can be a supplement to either food or drugs. We need to generate evidence if there are any gaps and to concentrate more on prebiotics.
Dr Nandan Joshi, Head: Health & Nutrition Science, Danone: We need to bring credibility in the industry and educate consumers to make probiotics a lifestyle choice.
Subham Ray, Head Product Development, Technology & QA, Future Consumer: We need to create a strong link between the industry, academia and the consumers.
Amit Srivastava, BU Head, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories: Speaking as a pharmaceutical company, we need to educate and enable doctors on the foundation of outcomes to be promoted as an adjuvant and not as a therapy.
Dr Nikhil Bangale, Sr Manager Medical Affairs, Nestle Nutrition India: Education is certainly going to be instrumental in disseminating the importance of probiotics starting right from the grass root level for consumers and HCPs. Drawing simplistic and practical analogies would ensure effective education. Putting forth claims backed by data would be crucial.
Bharat Jhaver, CEO, Tablets India: We need continuous education for consumers as well as the doctor fraternity. Word of mouth can also be great to spread awareness.
Ankit Kochhar, Marketing, ITC Foods: We need to convey the proven benefits of probiotics in way that the consumer relates to. Also, while spreading awareness, we need to simplify the language and draw analogies which will give probiotics more substance.