Indian anti-hangover first mover Morning Fresh eyes growth opportunities for RTD functional beverages

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Morning Fresh claims to be the first brand in India to launch hangover cures in the market. ©Morning Fresh
Morning Fresh claims to be the first brand in India to launch hangover cures in the market. ©Morning Fresh

Related tags India hangover remedy RTD functional beverage

India-based Morning Fresh is actively expanding its portfolio across categories and formats to fulfil rising demand for functional products, particularly ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages.

Consumer demand for anti-hangover products and competition in the market have evolved significantly since Morning Fresh’s launch in 2015, said brand founder Mitali Tandon.

Through research and focus groups, the firm noticed a gap in the market for hangover cures, as most people sought home remedies. Subsequently, its R&D team discovered the liver support function of silk proteins, which are now used as a key ingredient for its products.

“At the time, we were the only brand in India that specifically targeted hangovers. We had a lot to learn about consumer preferences, as it was a new category to them. We also had to educate retailers so that our products are placed under a suitable category on the shelves.

“Today, we’d like to think ourselves as a category leader, having built a strong brand association between Morning Fresh and anti-hangover drinks. Because of COVID-19, people have become much more health-conscious, and are looking for and are willing to pay for products that help them stay healthy — hangover cures are one of those things.

“While entertainment continues to play a big part in people’s lives and/or work, what has changed is that they want to have a good time without compromising on their health,” ​Tandon told NutraIngredients-Asia​.  

Morning Fresh debuted with two SKUs in the RTD format, and has been expanding its line-up to include more flavours and the sachet format, which is popular among travellers.

“Now, we do hangover kits and bulk orders for weddings, which are usually a two- or three-day affair in India, with lots of festivities involved.

“Cola is one of our best-selling flavours for the RTD format, whereas Orange flavour is the preferred choice for sachets. Both are familiar flavours that many find pleasant to end an evening of drinks with.”

Going forward, the firm aims to capitalise on the first-mover advantage by “setting the benchmark” for the category while advancing product development.  

“There is a lot of room for innovation, especially in India where we have a huge body of natural ingredients such as herbs and spices that we can leverage to develop new products. There are also myriad possibilities in terms of format, including gummies and strips. 

“We are working on product extensions and building a range of ‘wellness beverages’. It is clear that post-COVID, our target consumers are very conscious about what they put into their bodies. So, we are looking at a pipeline of products that will help people stay healthy and productive.”

Although anti-hangover drinks do not need to undergo rigorous regulatory approval processes as required for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, the firm conducts extensive market research and analysis, and product testing at lab scale. It also works with third-party labs to validate findings before registering and launching new products.

“We only use natural and clean ingredients, with a focus on quality and efficacy. Our top priority is to be transparent about the ingredients that go into our products, and making sure that what our products claim to do is truly what we are able to deliver,” ​Tandon added.

morning inside
Morning Fresh's hangover cure in sachet format. ©Morning Fresh

Opportunities across categories

As part of expanding its wellness range, Morning Fresh is looking to solve other common pain points, with one of them being sleep quality.

“Sleep is another vital part of health, both mental and physical. The pandemic has taken a big toll on people in India — working from home has changed people’s routines, for example. The high levels of stress that the population is facing today has resulted in sleep becoming extremely important to consumers.

“This presents an opportunity for us to help them sleep better so that they wake up feeling fresh and ready to take on each day.”

In response to these needs, the brand has introduced a series of sleep aids in sachet format that contain ingredients such as melatonin, mulberry leaf extract, L-theanine, silk protein, and tulsi.

Furthermore, its Beauty Sleep Aid is a beauty-from-within product enriched with biotin to help improve hair, nails and skin as the body undergoes healing and repair during sleep.

In the next few years, Tandon expects to see substantial development in the functional beverages sector.

“It’s still a little nascent right now, but there are many companies getting into the space of holistic wellness, nutraceuticals, and dietary supplements. I think there are going to be a lot of RTD beverages with functionality claims ranging from gut health and weight loss to hair growth, energy, and anxiety.”

India and beyond

Morning Fresh is currently only available in India, but the firm is planning to extend its reach to other Asian markets in the next financial year.

“Middle Eastern markets, such as the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as Singapore and Hong Kong, where anti-hangover products have presence in, are appealing to us. There are lots of opportunities to explore,” ​Tandon shared.

At the same time, untapped opportunities remain abound in its domestic market.

“India is a very large country. We started off with major cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Goa, where our products can be found at convenience stores, premium outlets or liquor shops.

“For consumers who are not in these areas, we reach them via online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart. Additionally, we are partnering quick-commerce platforms, such as UberEats, Swiggy, Dunzo, and Blinkit, which provide same-day delivery or even delivery within 30 minutes.”