On May 31, veteran film star Amitabh Bachchan tweeted: “I am taking the 1st step by joining the biggest movement to fight malnutrition @MissionPoshan, @Network18Group and @Horlicks_india to support India’s Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan.”
Bachchan’s tweet kicked off a controversy. A national-level advocacy group called Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest wrote an open letter to Bachchan, asking him to withdraw the endorsement. It claimed that Horlicks was a high-sugar product and its claims of making children healthier were not scientifically backed. It also claimed that the consumption of the product was “harmful for children as it may contribute to childhood obesity and non-communicable disease in later life”.
T 2823 – I am taking the 1st step by joining the biggest movement to fight malnutrition @MissionPoshan,… https://t.co/NHcBjg9gtD
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) 1527737287000
GSK Consumer, which has put its consumer nutrition business, including Horlicks on the block, said that Bachchan would be the ambassador for its “Horlicks Mission Poshan” campaign, supporting the government’s Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan. According to a report, Bachchan clarified he was endorsing Mission Poshan and not any particular brand.
Horlicks and Complan, another iconic malt-based drink, might be on sale today for different reasons, but they are operating in a segment which is in decline. Increasing Health consciousness is driving the consumer away from such drinks. Volume growth in the health food drinks segment reached – 6.8% in 2016-17, according to an ET report. More alarming could be the fact that the fall in volume in this category happens to be the first in a decade in India. A steep fall in the prospects of the estimated Rs 7,000 crore health food drinks (HFD) segment might pose a challenge for the new owners of Horlicks and Complan.
The past three years, reckon analysts tracking the segment, have been challenging for most HFD players in India. Apart from intense competition, rising popularity of substitute products such as syrups has also affected growth, says Abneesh Roy, senior vice-president at Edelweiss Financial Services. Roy, however, is quick to point out that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The companies, he says, need to focus on health, rather than taste.
Besides increasing health consciousness, there is a host of other challenges HFDs face. One is from startups offering health foods and snacking options. As parents now pay more attention to product labels, many products claim to be healthier, for example by claiming to be free of any preservatives.
What’s also adding to the woes of HFD players is competition from an unexpected quarter: PediaSure. The brand from Abbott has been the sole bright spot in the HFD category. It has even eaten into the market share of top HFD players, says a Motilal Oswal report. Brands from pharma companies entering the nutrition segment would appeal more to a health conscious consumer.
HFDs also face competition from breakfast cereals. HFDs were used to get kids to drink milk. There is now a growing preference to have cereals with milk, so parents don’t bother about HFDs.