Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Points of View

Decoding how Chyawanprash became the hottest flavour of the season

We’ve already seen Chyawanprash ice cream and toffee ever since the COVID pandemic struck. Looking at the huge demand for the product, could we see more formats?

Several traditional Indian flavours have entered the mainstream flavour portfolio of products over the years. Paan, Gulkand, Jal Jeera, Lassi, Haldi, Aam Panna, Kesar Pista, Rose, among many others, have made their way into product variants, like cookies, candies, mixes, packed beverages, and even condoms. Could Chyawanprash be having its 'flavour' moment?

Until recently, the only available format was the black jam-like sticky paste sold in jars by Ayurvedic companies like Dabur, Zandu, Hamdard, Baidyanath, and Patanjali. It tastes sweet, sour, and also spicy.

A few weeks back, we witnessed the launch of a Chyawanprash flavoured ice cream by dairy brand Dairy Day. And then, we came across Chakaash, a Chyawanprash toffee by Dr. Vaidya.

Chywanprash toffee to boost immunity & energy 300+ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ star reviews ✅ Tasty 😋 ✅ Ayurvedic 🌿 ✅ 100% Natural ⛰️

Posted by Dr Vaidya's Ayurveda Clinic on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Chyawanprash is an Ayurvedic product made by processing around 50 medicinal herbs. The key ingredient is Amla (Indian gooseberry), which is often cited as a rich source of vitamin C. The product, which is often confused to be a brand name, is centuries old.

The name is made of two words, ‘Chyavana’ and ‘Prasha’. Chyavana is the name of a Hindu forest sage, and Prasha means eating. According to Hindu religious texts, a feeble Chyavana was rejuvenated after being fed with Chyawanprash.

Cut to today, it is true that Chyawanprash, as a flavour, is as Indian as it gets. But, unlike the examples mentioned in the first paragraph, it almost has the stature of an OTC (over the counter) medicine. The primary proposition of Chyawanprash is as a health supplement that helps build immunity, and fights ageing.

Over the several decades of its presence in the consumer market in India, the product has seen little hybridisation. Dabur, the market leader, has refrained from tweaking the paste format, and has only diversified into flavour variants like Sugar Free, Mixed Fruit, Chocolate and Mango.

Cookie brand Unibic tried a date-filled Chyawanprash cookie in 2011. Companies like Dr. Vaidya and Himalaya offer Chyawanprash capsules.

The product has been in the limelight over the last few months due to the COVID-19 crisis. Dabur reported a 400 per cent spike in the demand for Chyawanprash as a result of the pandemic.

So, will the Chyawanprash flavour actually grow beyond the ‘sticky paste’, or is it just companies trying to ride the ‘Corona’ wave?

Experts Speak:

Rajesh Srivastava, former CEO JK Helene Curtis, professor (and author of 'The New Rules of Business')

The primary question that has to be asked is, which category is it a good fit for? Chyawanprash is associated with boosting immunity across age groups. It should enter categories where the habit is already formed, and only needs to be accelerated. It needs to piggyback on a habit.

A good match is drinking milk in Indian households. Additives like Horlicks and Bournvita either made up for milk, or altered the taste of milk. They don’t primarily offer the immunity factor.

Rajesh Srivastava
Rajesh Srivastava

The question that is being asked by consumers across markets today is ‘how can we build immunity?’ Coupling Chyawanprash with milk could create the blockbuster proposition of ‘protein and calcium plus immunity’.

Coming to ice creams, they are known to cause negative health issues, and would not go well with the proposition of a product like Chyawanprash. It’s a good way to get people to try initially, but it won’t be sustainable.

Now coming to a toffee-like format, it has to taste good. The moment you make Chyawanprash tasty, half of its value is gone. What remains is residual associations. It is, in a way, like the stinging sensation of Dettol. Simply put, you can’t have a tasty Chyawanprash.

Lopamudra Roy, founder-CEO at Road Not Taken (a consumer research consultancy)

“Chyawanprash ice creams. Wow! What an idea!” Well, that was a parent talking. Sorry, if the conversation goes like this, instead.

“Beta, here’s a surprise! Ice cream!”

“Which one?”

“Chyawanprash!”

“Ouch! No, never!”

Well, as a qualitative researcher, I read from the child’s angle. What is hated is hated. Medicine, for instance. Mix it with anything – you’d be thinking you’re improving the taste of the medicine. Maybe, you’re simply spoiling the taste of ice cream.

Nevertheless, ice cream, colas, potato chips, pizzas, and bubble gums are sins. So, there’s space for it in any form. ‘Happydenters’ are happy for dental reasons? Nope, it’s just the gum.

Lopamudra Roy
Lopamudra Roy

Edward de Bono asked us to think out of the box by creatively combining two absolutely unrelated entities to produce innovation marvels. Biotechnology, Human Resource, Neuromarketing - the list goes on.

Initial backlash on Chyawanprash ice creams from netizens across Twitter, and other platforms, explains a different problem with this attempt. Consumer researches are pointing to one loud message – crisis is not the time for brands to be clever and opportunistic.

Wellness yes, but without foregoing indulgence. Want to do Haldi colas without appearing as opportunistic? Without the right levers in their place, the mechanics of hybridisation will not work.

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research

The food labs of the F&B industry are always busy experimenting with what could work, and appeal to the palette. I’m sure it’s one of those.

Due to the COVID scenario today, it’s good to use the word Chyawanprash in some way. Even the ice cream, despite being cold and having the same amount of sugar, might start seeming healthy. It also has to be altered from a taste point of view.

N Chandramouli
N Chandramouli

We can expect the move to be attempted at many other areas, but success would depend on consumer’s feedback. We could see a Chyawanprash shake that could take shape as a healthy morning drink - given the fact that it is supposed to be taken with milk for higher benefits. A shake would provide both the entertainment value and the health benefit.

I wonder why Amul hasn’t tried it yet. Consumers might, in general, have trouble putting the two (milk and Chyawanprash) together. I don’t expect to see it in antithetical scenarios, like Theobroma selling a Chyawanprash cake. Attempts can be made in many other food items where concepts (for example, Indian and Western) don’t clash.

Ayurveda is, anyway, the flavour of the season. If someone can get the pricing and taste right, the Chyawanprash-dairy combo is something that could really take off. Unlike many Ayurveda products and remedies, the credibility of Chyawanprash goes unquestioned in an Indian household.