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Health food booms in India

Yogurt, juices and other low-calorie foods with Indian characteristics.


The company’s Facebook fan page has almost 30,000 members who write comments on its wall like “I love it soooo much” and “pls open cocoberry in noida..!! the commuting to def col is a toughie..!!!”

The Cocoberry staff interacts with the fans, giving them updates on new branches and flavors and providing health tips about the benefits of eating various fruit toppings. The page also has a photograph of a store worker making the peace sign as he poses with actor Jackie Shroff, holding his freshly made yogurt, at the Pali Hill branch.

Cocoberry also tweaks its yogurt flavor to make it appeal to an Indian market.

Other food companies have also sprung up that try to capitalize on this new demand for health food, often in uniquely Indian ways.

Companies, like Vital Foods based in the Santa Cruz East suburb, now offer a healthy option to Mumbai’s famous lunch-box delivery system run by a union of dabbawallas. The dabbawallas collect lunch-boxes from residences or food stores, deliver the food during lunchtime at offices throughout the city and then return the empty boxes.

Vital Foods prepares lunch options for upper class business men and women who have dietary requirements or want healthier options prepared with little oil and no artificial ingredients or preservatives, says spokesperson Pratim Parekh. The lunches are then delivered via the dabbawalla service.

Vital Foods, which began six years ago serving 10 customers, now prepares 400 lunches a day, he says.

Another company, called JKart, offered customers healthy juices made according to an individual’s medical history and blood type, says former owner Anupam Adarsh. The company focused on home deliveries of the custom-made bottled juices, he said.

Like men who deliver milk, called doodh, to Indian homes, JKart was called “the modern age doodhwallas,” Adarsh says.

Adarsh sold the juice chain, which has since closed, and he now plans on starting a similar brand in March called Bounce Health Bar. It will offer health options like wraps and low-calorie meals and focus on selling at corporate workplaces and to young people.

“The market is already there,” Adarsh says. “This is the time to enter it.”

Yet despite the optimism surrounding the health food market in India, there are still limitations, says Maheshwari of RNCOS. He says retailers have not yet begun selling a complete range of health food products or certified brands, the products tend to be over-priced and they are largely produced for an export-oriented market.

Godrej Nature’s Basket, a gourmet retail chain that caters to up-market Indian consumers, has seen a recent spike in demand for its health food options at its stores in Mumbai, according to managing director Mohit Khattar. While the market is now focused on western products, the chain plans to expand the types of products available.

“It is only when this trend gets localized,” he wrote in an email, “[that] the big ticket growth will come in.”