Differentiating Seven ‘Ps’ of Marketing-Mix for Health Food Products – A strategic overview

As estimated by Nicholas Hall the health food products market in India is currently around U.S.$ 1.3 Billion with a huge marketing potential. However, the marketing-mix for such groups of health food products will need to be crafted in an innovative way and carefully tailored to suit the need of individual brands, by an astute marketer.
Definition of Health Food Products:In my view, the health food products are those, which have a favorable impact on human health, their physical performance or state of mind. Such products include various types of food substances, dietary supplements with medical benefits and are used mostly for the prevention of various types of diseases.

The global market:

The global market for health food products is projected to be around U.S.$ 190 Billion by 2010 with a CAGR of 6.1% during 2000 – 2010. In 2007 its market size was reported to be U.S.$ 166 Billion.

Categories of health food products:

Before we delve into the space of marketing-mix, let me try to categorize these products under the following six categories:

Functional Foods:

- These are dietary components, which provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, like
isabgool or psyllium husk, whey proteins, bran or oats

Medicinal Foods:

- These are functional foods with more medicinal value, for e.g. cranberry juice, anti-diabetic/anti-obesity health
bars with added medication etc.


- This category comprises of substances which are foods or part of a food with usually preventive health benefits
like vitamins, minerals, gingko biloba, coenzyme Q10, carnitine, ginseng, garlic, tulsi, kalmegh, brahmi, saffron,
ashwagandha, green tea, karela powder etc.


- These products are like lycopene found in tomatoes or flavanoids in fruits. Such substances usually do not
possess any nutritive value but offer some disease preventive properties.

Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicines:

- These are derived from plants and are used as such or in form of extracts and possess disease preventive

Other health related products are like sports nutrition and various types of organic foods.

Key Drivers:

In my view following are the four key drivers of the health food products market in India:

Consumer awareness:
- Increasing consumer health consciousness will increase the popularity of health food products

Changing lifestyle:
- Incidence of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases has been
increasing with fast changing consumer lifestyle. Moreover, increasing cost of serious medical treatment is
also encouraging people to go for preventive health care.

Ageing population:
- Ageing population in India is expected to contribute significantly to increase the demand for health foods
supplements and functional foods to address various types age related health conditions.

New scientific evidence of various health foods:
- Ongoing scientific research studies to establish health benefits of various food substances and dietary
supplements will help expanding the ambit health food products at a faster speed.

Key challenges for Herbal Food Products:

Herbal products taken from two or more different sources may not necessarily have the same potency, leading to concerns of batch to batch product quality variations in terms of efficacy, which depends on the potency of the material used.

Differentiating the marketing-mix:

For health food products, instead of conventional four Ps of marketing, one will need to consider the following seven Ps:

1. Product :

Health food products will need to have the following:

• Scientifically documented health benefits
• Innovative product development targeting different consumer segments
• Clear brand differentiation
-Without this ‘Horlicks Vs Viva’ story is expected to be repeated more often than in the past with enlightened consumer base.
• Reasonable standardization

2. Place:

Innovative use of this ‘P’ will play a critical role in the success of any health food product.

The following distribution outlets for the health food products are important:

• Kirana / Grocery stores
• Supermarkets

However, equally important is the availability of these products in pharmacies as many consumers will perceive these products as important as medicines and may enquire at the pharmacy outlets for their availability.

• Multi Level Marketing (MLM)
- MLM can be used innovatively for health food products marketing, as is being done currently by Amway, Herbal Life etc.

3. Price:

Price of a health food product like many other products is a function of values that the brand will offer and will also depend on:

• Differential brand features and benefits
• Product life cycle

However, pressure on margin for health food products will be more due to:
• Strong bargaining power of distributors’ chain / supermarket stores, unlike pharmaceutical products where retail and wholesale margin is fixed in India
• High promotional expenditure due to usage of both mass media and relatively intensive personal selling.

4. Promotion :

For health food promotion following common tools just like any consumer product marketing will help:

• Advertising through mass media
• Point of Purchase Promotion (POP)
• Sampling

In addition, following campaigns may prove to be highly beneficial for such products:

• Awareness campaign for usefulness of disease prevention measures
• Medical promotion
- This will be important especially for health food products designed for children where the parents usually seek a doctor’s opinion about the product benefits. Doctors may not necessarily prescribe the product but their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in reply to parents’ questions on the product may prompt whether the parents will continue with this product for the child or not.

Other types of promotion for health food products may be the following:

• Multi level marketing
• Promotion in schools, sports clubs etc.
• Telemarketing of brand services
- These are especially important for health food products meant for children. In such cases, a telemarketing cell consisting of trained nurses or dieticians, will enquire about the progress of the child with the product and give various advices to the mothers for the child, as required by them. Such types of telemarketing services through specialists will help adding a premium image to the brand to indirectly boost up the sales.
• Internet / social forums
- These tools can also be innovatively used for health food brand promotion.

5. People :

For health food products marketing, people with the following skill sets have been found immensely beneficial:

• Sales person with additional training inputs on concerned health related subjects
• Telemarketing of services with people having nursing or a dietician’s background

6. Process :

- All other ‘P’s’ may work with absolute efficiency, but if the marketing process remains inefficient, the branding exercise may be adversely impacted. Thus following areas need to concentrated upon with equal zest:

• Process efficiency
• Process speed
• Process innovation
• Efficiency of IT interface within the marketing process

7. Physical Evidence :

Now a day’s individual enlightened consumer usually wants to know the ability of the manufacturer and the environment in which a product is manufactured, along with the quality of services that is delivered for the brand. Hence, while considering the marketing-mix for health food products the ‘P’ of ‘physical evidence’ is expected to play an increasingly important role.


It is therefore of immense importance for the marketers to consider the differentiated marketing-mix of seven ‘Ps’ for health food products in their branding exercise.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.