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The pandemic has put a spotlight on health, and eating healthy has become a high priority for 79 percent of Indians since the outbreak.
The latest research from Mintel on "what customers want and why" highlighted that 81 percent of Indians consider breakfast as one of the most important meals for the day.
More than 3,000 Indians were surveyed by Mintel in the past 6 months.
Given the consumer interests in eating healthily, over a third of Indians (35 percent) associate low salt with a healthy breakfast. However, the average sodium in cereal launches in India in the same period was 76 percent higher than the global average.
According to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), only 4 percent of the total breakfast cereal launches in India in the five years to June 2020 carried a "Low/No/Reduced sodium" claim.
Only 18 percent of Indians have been reducing their salt intake in the 12 months to December 2019.
Rushikesh Aravkar, Mintel food & drink analyst, said, "For brands to resonate with consumer needs, it is important to align with what consumers mean by healthy breakfast. But when it comes to salt reduction, Indian breakfast cereal brands have a vast ground to cover compared to their global counterparts, given that the average sodium content of breakfast cereal launches in India is almost double that of the global average."
He was quick to add that high sodium intake is known to cause hypertension, which is linked to heart diseases and the health impact of excessive salt is a lot less obvious and is low on the consumer agenda.
"In the context of COVID-19, hypertension is linked to an increased risk of mortality. It is called the 'silent killer' because its symptoms are not always obvious. Hence, it is crucial to proactively cut down on sodium. Hence, it is crucial for breakfast food brands to proactively embark on salt and sugar reduction in a phased manner, ensuring consumer acceptance and their commitment to improving consumer health," Aravkar said.
"To help Indian consumers attain their health goals, brands can nudge consumers to cut down intake by reducing sodium in their products and communicating the benefits to consumers," he added.
Mintel research highlights that 22 percent of consumers snack three times a day or more. Moreover, Indian consumers agree that beverages (53 percent), biscuits (67 percent) and yogurts (55 percent) are a suitable option for breakfast.
Time-pressed lifestyles coupled with easy availability of snacks is fuelling snacking frequency among Indians. Snack categories such as biscuits, yogurt, smoothies and beverages are increasingly vying for the breakfast occasion in India. This behaviour is likely to result in the snack category eating into the breakfast occasion, the survey stated.
Finally, the convenience of packaged breakfast appeals to consumers with busy lifestyles. Mintel research highlights that 66 percent of consumers living in Metro cities agree that ready-to-eat packaged breakfast options are suitable for daily use compared to 53 percent of total consumers.
With the increased workload of cooking three meals a day due to the lockdown, consumers sought products that offered convenience and less preparation time, steps and efforts required to make hot and freshly cooked breakfast.