Representatives of Coca-Cola and its partners have been visiting pharmacy stores and other channels across India for the past few months. The team is pursuing a new retail opportunity for the recently launched product that marked Coca-Cola’s entry into the space of ‘nutritious dilutables.’

In line with Coca-Cola’s commitment to contribute towards the National Nutrition strategy of achieving a ‘Kuposhan Mukt Bharat’, Minute Maid Vitingo was unveiled last year on a commercial scale. The first batch of Minute Maid Vitingo whereas officially dispatched in June 2018 to pharmacies at select locations across the country. Those were the early steps for Coca-Cola, as it aligned its goals with the government’s efforts to address concerns around iron deficiency, especially in children.

Puri Chemists in Delhi was one of those who decided to retail Minute Maid Vitingo. With a sachet for just INR 5, the opportunity appeared to be good for the retailer at one of the most densely populated boroughs in east Delhi.

“The initial demand has been good. Since the price is attractive, they (consumers) are willing to try it,” Ajay Puri, the owner of the pharmacy said over the phone in Hindi.

Girish of Maruti Medicals echoed the same sentiment. “It is a new kind of product. So, the awareness is not there. But people are willing to try it because of the price,” he said.

Benefits aplenty at INR 5

While price may be one reason why many people may try the product, iron and other minerals that it adds to the body could make it a compelling proposition. The issue of iron deficiency also cuts across income and social strata. So, reaching out to pharmacies for a nutrition-related product like Minute Maid Vitingo is important since people of all income groups visit these stores.

The product is now retailing at over 20,000 stores (as on December 2018) and growing, but it may still be early days to gauge its acceptance. Retailers may have to play an important role in taking the product to the masses since they have to convey its benefits to potential buyers. The orange-coloured sachets are being deployed in areas where iron deficiency is higher so that the benefits can accrue soon.

Most of the times children who are iron deficient are likely to show easily discernable symptoms like getting tired very soon, feeling weak or even appearing to be lacking energy, it could be due to deficiency of iron in the body. Such a situation can result in the body getting anemic, stunting development during the growing years among kids.

The problem is spread across the globe. Iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) affect nearly 40 percent of the world’s children. During their school-going years, cereal flour fortification with iron is considered one of the most cost-effective ways in reducing the prevalence of ID and IDA. India is no different, hence there exists an unmet need among consumers.

After Minute Maid Vitingo went through rigorous tests and development cycles at the Coca-Cola labs, it was readied for the launch. The product earlier went through the process of clinical trials in partnership with St. John’s Research Institute, Bengaluru.

At the end of the clinical trial process, the report had a clear finding. “This study shows that regular daily consumption of MMN-fortified beverage for eight weeks improved micronutrient status and decreased the prevalence of ID, IDA, Vitamin C and Vitamin B12 deficiency among school going children with low iron stores.”

Challenge of addressing iron deficiency

The challenge with addressing iron deficiency among kids, or older people, is that the body does not absorb iron easily. Wheat-based vegetarian diet among Indians throws further challenge in absorption. Even if it were to be consumed in small dosages, its presence on the tongue will leave people with an undesirable aftertaste, which makes it a non-option for many. That is why Minute Maid Vitingo, with iron and other essentials, could be a great option to address the issue as it delivers iron in the form of a refreshingly tasty beverage.