We often hear that minerals are essential for human body and play a vital role in keeping bones healthy. They also keep nerves and muscles ticking. In this day and age, when maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is a challenge, can adding minerals to water keep people healthy? While the jury is out on the benefit of doing this, fortifying water with minerals has emerged as a niche area for companies which provide tools and kits to purify water.
Consider this: Eureka Forbes, which has been in the business of ensuring supply of clean drinking water for over 35 years, about five years ago decided to venture into healthy hydration and came up with three patented in-house technologies before launching its premium range of water purifiers under the Dr Aquaguard brand name. The idea is to enrich water with micro-nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc and make it "bio-permeable for nutrient absorption in human cells." That is not all. It has also added alkaline water to its kitty. "Healthy hydration (pure water plus) and, therefore, by definition all Aquaguard and Dr. Aquaguard, would be 60 per cent of the market. Specifically, alkaline water would be close to Rs 100-150 crore. The premium end of the spectrum would be 18-20 per cent and become 35-40 per cent as the category matures over a five-year horizon," says Marzin R. Shroff, Managing Director and CEO, Eureka Forbes. "The market size of the electric water purification in India is estimated to be approximately Rs 4,000 crore, growing at 8-12 per cent. A large part is unorganised. We believe the industry will see a lot of consolidation, especially at the bottom end of the market. At the top end, we also see the emergence of pure water plus more."
Nutritionists also talk about a growing space for alkaline water with people storing water in copper vessels to increase its alkalinity. Shroff, for instance, talks of "tamra jal", Ayurveda's advice to people to keep water in a copper jug overnight for consumption in the morning. "For today's day and age, when one does not have time to store water for eight hours, we have crafted a technology for instant ionic infusion of copper. Along with the pure, safe and healthy drinking water from Aquaguard, one also gets the benefit of copper in drinking water," he says. "Today, we have solutions that don't just give healthy water. We can also deliver the temperature and taste you like. The price range starts from as low as Rs 1,500 and goes up to Rs 40,000, depending on the features," Eureka Forbes' Shroff adds.
Eureka Forbes is not the only one. Most big water purification companies such as Kent, Livpure and others offer solutions to add value to the water. Mahesh Gupta, who founded Kent RO Systems in 1998, is not a strong believer in healthy hydration, but is offering it to give an option to those who perceive value in it, says: "Healthy hydration is decoration of water through addition of essential minerals, but what is essential and fundamental to good health is ensuring that the water is free from impurities, be it bacteria and viruses or other harmful impurities like pesticides and arsenic that could be slow poison." His healthy hydration products include alkaline water filter pitchers. "I do not know how beneficial it is. It is for you to judge. It is reported to have benefits, and if people want it, they can have it for around Rs 2,000. In fact, I always maintain that one should not drink alkaline water throughout the day, especially after eating. After you eat, your body secretes juices which are acidic in nature, and alkaline water will neutralise it." Calling Kent an RO purifier company, he says they have a 40 per cent share of this Rs 2,000-crore market.
Nutritionists say while minerals benefit body, not everybody is sure about the benefits of consuming them through water. Lalithapriya, a Bengaluru-based consultant dietician, says: "While minerals and alkalinity are important for the body, it is always better to adopt the natural way through suitable changes in diet and avoiding processed food, sugar, fried items and other acidic foods and rely more on mineral-rich food. This may be better than bombarding the body with mineral- and alkaline-rich water all the time."
Then, why has this become an attractive space for companies? S. Siddharth Singh, Associate Professor, ISB, who focus on marketing, says: "This may be one way for companies to differentiate themselves at the level of consumer perception. As long as consumers perceive that differentiation to be important enough to make the purchase, it will be good for the companies."