Health Supplements to India
Trends and opportunities
India is experiencing a spate of lifestyle changes and a corresponding rise
in lifestyle diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and
cardiovascular problems. This has increased the demand for nutritional
supplements among upper and middle-class consumers. Nutraceutical intake is
growing in popularity as consumers look for products to boost energy and
health. The demand for dietary supplements such as tablets, capsules,
powders, liquids, soft caps and soft gels is increasing.
India’s age-old history of ayurvedic medicine means consumers are familiar
with taking supplements to address health issues. Growing awareness of and
increasing health concerns have led to a rise in the use of modern health
supplements, especially natural health products.
The Indian nutraceuticals market was worth around US$4 billion in 2017
and is expected to grow at 21% CAGR to US$10 billion by 2022. This will be
fuelled by a significant 25% per annum growth in the functional beverages
market, accompanied by similar potential growth in other segments. Dietary
supplements account for more than 60% of this market. 
Source: India Nutraceutical Industry Report, Assocham
A report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India
(Assocham) found that vitamins and minerals account for about 40% of the
Indian dietary supplements market. This is followed by herbal supplements
(30%), probiotics (10%), omega-3 fatty acids (5%), and proteins, amino
acids and other essential elements (15%).
The growing popularity of health supplements can be attributed to
consumers’ increased inclination towards health and nutrition. Indian
consumers, predominantly the upper middle class, perceive nutraceuticals as
alternatives to prescription drugs. Consumers are also considering the
functional health benefits of these supplements for preventing disease.
Furthermore, products for boosting energy and improving physical endurance
and mental alertness are in high demand.
The health and food supplements market was dominated by a handful of
foreign players such as Optimum Nutrition and Ultimate Nutrition, and a few
local brands until four to five years ago. However, there has been growing
interest from international brands like Holland and Barret, Amway Herbalife
and GNC. Domestic brands such as Himalaya, Dabur and ON are offering a
broad range of products.
Countries exporting health supplements to India include the US, the UK and
Australia. Products are mostly sold online through domestic or cross-border
channels. Some of the popular categories include protein-based nutrition
products, multivitamins, omega fatty acids, mass gainers, antioxidants and
weight loss foods.
Australian products enjoy a strong reputation among Indian consumers as
premium quality, clean, green and safe due to Australia’s well-regulated
Some of the key drivers of the health supplements market in India include
Rising affluence of Indian consumers
Health and nutrition-conscious consumers believe supplements can balance
out their unhealthy and unbalanced diets and improve energy levels for
work. This growing segment is increasingly wealthy and internet-savvy. Much
of the growth of this sector has been through e-commerce channels such as
Amazon, Healthkart and Flipkart.
Increase in sports-related consumption
India’s growing interest in sports, not only cricket but badminton,
football, tennis, wrestling, kabaddi and swimming, has led to increased
consumption of sports supplements and nutraceuticals, especially sports
Strong interest in wellness
Indian consumers are conscious of the need to get fit, which has led to a
rise in slimming centres and gyms in India. There are opportunities to
market supplements that enhance wellness to this segment.
Growing online spending
India is a digitally inclined nation where online purchases have grown
exponentially over the last five years. The number of internet users is
expected to increase from 493.96 million as of March 2018 to 829 million by
2021. In the past three years, the number of online shoppers has increased
sevenfold to 80 million. Rising internet penetration and e-commerce
adoption will see continued increases in the number of online shoppers.
E-commerce is a growing channel for buying health supplements. Multiple
factors are behind the rising adoption of e-commerce channels. These
include the strong value proposition offered by online merchants,
proliferating payment platforms, strengthening delivery logistics, and
significant financial investment in the sector.
Shifting family structures
The extended Indian joint family has given way to nuclear households,
defined as a couple or a single person, with or without children. The
proportion of nuclear households, which has been on the rise during the
past two decades, has reached 70% and is projected to increase to 74% by
2025. This ongoing shift is significant because nuclear households spend
20% to 30% more per capita than joint families, and are more likely to seek
alternate forms of treatment or lifestyles.
Complex regulatory environment
India’s regulatory environment is complicated. Products require pre-market
approval by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
However, interpretation and enforcement of regulations by FSSAI and by
local state governments can be inconsistent.
Health supplements face strong competition from international companies
that have invested heavily in marketing and promotion, and local companies
that provide competitive price points. India, unlike China, remains an
ayurvedic and herbal products-driven market, and Indians support and trust
local manufacturing. While international players need to pay high import
duties, domestic health supplement manufacturers such as Himalaya, Elder
Pharmaceuticals, Dabur, Zandu and Baidyanath can offer a wide range of
health food supplements at very competitive prices.
High import tariffs
Health supplements imported into India face tariffs of between 30% and 150%
depending on the product. Austrade can provide exact tariffs for specific
Lack of retail pharmacy chains
Over 90% of pharmacies in India are fragmented and unorganised
neighbourhood stores. These stores normally do not sell imported health
supplements and prefer offering locally manufactured supplements for a
Tariffs, regulations and customs
Information on import tariffs for Australian health supplements can be
found on the Department of Commerce’s Indian Trade Portal.
Examples of tariffs include:
||Import Tariff Rate
|Food preparations, in capsule or tablet form
||30–150% (depending on the product’s sub-HS code)
|Other products containing vitamins or other products
The FSSAI has developed Food Safety and Standards Regulations for importing
nutritional supplements into India. Austrade has listed below some of the
key rules that Australian food and nutrition companies need to know. The
notifications cover the following broad categories of foods and carry
detailed requirements about their composition, claims and labels.
These foods are:
- Health supplements
The rules state health supplements may be used to supplement the diet of a
person over the age of five and must not contain any food product covered
elsewhere in the regulations. Each package must prominently display the
words ‘Health supplement’ and ‘Not for medicinal use’.
Nutraceuticals must provide a physiological benefit and help maintain good
health. All product packaging must contain the word ‘nutraceutical’ and a
quantity declaration of the ingredients. The packaging must also contain
the warnings stipulated for supplements.
- Foods for special dietary use
This does not include infant nutrition products, and instead refers to
products that can satisfy dietary requirements in relation to low weight,
obesity, pregnancy, high blood pressure and coeliac disease. No less than
25% and not more than 50% of the energy can come from protein, and no more
than 30% from fat.
- Food for special medicinal purposes
This includes food prepared for weight reduction and intended as a total
replacement of a normal diet. It must be a formula food for a very low
energy diet of between 450-800kcal and contain not less than 50g of
The full regulations can be found
Marketing your products and services
Registering and exporting health supplements to India can be a difficult
and time-consuming process. Australian exporters should work with an Indian
agent or distributor to handle import procedures and registration.
E-commerce is a rapidly growing channel as companies like Amazon and
Walmart-owned Flipkart add more health supplements to their product
portfolio. Many established importers would prefer Australian brands to
commit resources in India by way of market promotion costs and listing fees
with large pharmacy retailers and supermarket chains.
Ingredient sourcing from Australia
To avoid high tariff rates ranging between 30% and 150% for imported health
supplements in capsule or tablet form, some Indian companies import
Australian ingredients for further processing in India. There is a demand
for high-quality and unique ingredients from Australia such as tea tree
oil, fish oil, manuka honey and whey protein concentrate. The finished
product is usually marketed to high-end consumers.
Below are some distribution channels for health supplements.
There are a number of ways to sell health supplements to consumers in
1. Direct selling
- Direct selling accounts for 37.5% of the market as of 2017.
- Brands include Amway India and Herbalife India.
- The total market share of this channel has been significant because of
the lack of organised retailers and doctors prescribing supplements for
- Major pharmacy chains include Apollo Pharmacy, Med Plus, Fortis
Healthworld and other branded para-pharmacy chain stores.
- Major online pharmacy chains include NetMeds, Practo and 1Mg, which
follow inventory-based models and have expressed interest in importing
3. Internet retailing
- Besides online pharmacies, Australian brands can target major e-commerce
portals like Amazon, Flipkart and Healthkart.
4. Other retail channels
- Specialty health and organic food stores
- Supermarket chains
Exporters should consider developing an omni-channel strategy that is
appropriate for the category.
Links and industry contacts
Government, trade and business
For more information on the health supplements market in India,
exporting health supplements and locating distributors and partners
, email Austrade India.
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