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Interviews- Expert Speak

“We expect the sports nutrition category to reach Rs 4000 Cr in India by 2026”

Soumava Sengupta, Chief Executive Officer, Pursuit of Wellness

India has been witnessing a rise in the number of companies and startups looking to serve the increasing demand for protein supplements, triggered by a rise in health consciousness. Mumbai-based BUILD. is one such startup brand – launched in 2022. In a recent conversation with nuFFooDS Spectrum, Soumava Sengupta, Chief Executive Officer, Pursuit of Wellness shares insights from the sports nutrition industry and provides an understanding of the growth that is expected in the Indian supplements market. Edited excerpts- 

Could you start with the recently launched sports-nutrition supplements brand BUILD. and the products in the pipeline? What are the major plans in store for 2023?

BUILD. is a premium, high-quality range of sports nutrition supplements. The products have been designed keeping in mind the different consumer needs in India. Nutrition science and food science have come together to deliver a truly efficacious and tasty product to the consumer.

At present, we have BUILD. whey blend, isolate, mass gainers, fish oils and multivitamins. Our whey isolate is available in two flavours: Belgium Chocolate and French Vanilla. Similarly, the whey proteins come in Swiss Chocolate and Madagascar Vanilla flavours. There is a pipeline of new product categories, flavours and formats that we have. They are designed to tap into the full fitness regime of the consumer – from pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout and recovery. We are launching the BUILD. PROWL range with Tiger Shroff. We will continue to expand our availability in the speciality stores across India.

How much has been invested in the startup? Are you planning to raise funds anytime soon? How much revenue are you expecting in FY 22-23?

Upwards of $0.5 million has been invested in this venture. We are well poised to hit our revenue targets of $2.5 million in FY 22-23. We are open to investors who are passionate about brand-building and not in the game of spiking valuation at the cost of the brand.

How many people are there in your team? Will you be hiring more and under what expertise?

We are a core team of 7 people. We have our agency partners in communication and digital performance marketing. Our distribution partners are BRIGHT Performance Nutrition.

We are expanding our team to 10 people by the end of FY 22-23.

Do you have R&D and manufacturing facilities? Could you tell us how your products are developed?

We have partnered with Influx Health Tech for our manufacturing and R&D. We also have our in-house nutrition specialist to anchor the partnership and product development process.

Are you planning to explore the alternative protein space for your products? What are your views on the growth of this new sector?

The alternative protein space is a small but rapidly growing category. Consumers have shown great interest in trying products in the alternative protein space. We are keeping a close look at it. We see the strong growth potential of this category.

What according to you are the challenges faced by new entrants especially startups in the sports-nutrition supplements category?

A large part of the Indian protein space is dominated by imported brands. There are two challenges. The first one is educating the Indian consumer that protein is not just for gym- goers. The second challenge is linked to the first one. Many brands take advantage of the lack of knowledge and sell sub-optimal products at deep discounts. The consumers feel that they are buying a good quality product, but actually not getting the results because the product formulation is sub-optimal.

In terms of proving the scientific benefits of sports nutrition supplements, what according to you must new entrants focus on?

I think there is strong ingredient-level scientific evidence that exists already. For a new brand, getting the product right and delivering the ingredients is essential. There is also merit in having your own clinical study of the product if there is an active ingredient or breakthrough science that has gone into the recipe. In terms of proving the scientific benefits of sports nutrition supplements, new entrants should focus on demonstrating how their products can improve athletic performance. This can be done through clinical trials or other research studies that show how the supplements can enhance strength, endurance, or other key physical parameters. Additionally, new entrants should focus on creating a robust body of scientific evidence to support the use of their products.

What is the size of the sports nutrition supplements market in India and its share globally? How are Indian companies faring in this category?

The sports nutrition category is poised for explosive growth in India. The rising adoption of a healthier and active lifestyle and the expansion of gyms is fuelling this growth. We expect the category to be at Rs 4000 crore by 2026 growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent. BUILD. is geared up to be among the top three brands in the category in that period. The market is still at a nascent stage in India with only 10-12 per cent of the population being aware of these products. However, with the increasing health consciousness among people and the growth of the fitness industry, the market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Indian companies are slowly gaining a foothold in the global sports nutrition supplements market, which is estimated to be worth around $30 billion. While the market is dominated by American and European companies, Indian companies are slowly making their presence felt with their quality products and competitive pricing.

What are the regulatory roadblocks to developing sports nutrition supplements in India and on a global platform? What are your expectations from the Indian government?

There are several regulatory roadblocks to developing sports nutrition supplements in India and on a global platform. The Indian government has not yet recognised the potential of the sports nutrition industry and has not taken any steps to regulate it. As a result, there are no clear guidelines for manufacturers and retailers of sports nutrition products. This lack of regulation makes it difficult for new entrants to the market to get their products approved and registered.

The global sports nutrition market is also highly regulated. In order to sell their products in international markets, manufacturers need to obtain approval from several regulatory bodies. This approval process can be lengthy and expensive, which acts as a barrier to entry for many small and medium-sized companies.

The Indian government needs to recognise the potential of the sports nutrition industry and take steps to regulate it. This would provide much-needed clarity for manufacturers and retailers, and would make it easier for new entrants to the market to get their products approved and registered. In addition, the government should work to streamline the approval process for sports nutrition products so that manufacturers can more easily obtain the necessary approvals to sell their products in international markets. Apart from this, I feel that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is doing a difficult and complex job, quite well. Also, particularly for BUILD., we did not face any regulatory roadblock.

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