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The new poster boy of Indian FDA and its hankering initiatives

FSSAI campaigning strategy for “Eat Healthy” initiative – a need for consumer and challenges for industry in immediate implementation 

Be it an individual or business branding form a critical component of product positioning in the market place. Of late, government entities in India have too recognized its importance especially when there is a great level of penetration required. In the past we have experienced instances of celebrities promoting public sector banks, NACO, Tourisms and even now-a-days every governing state employee one brand ambassador.

Shifting our focus to food industry, the FMCG businesses engage celebrities either from sports or cinema fraternity within their allocated budgets to endorse products in an attempt to reach the targeted market segments. Very often, we encounter glorified advertisements during the product launch phase. The Indian food regulating agency too may have realized the fact that a stable brand ambassador is required to maximize its reach to the public. Noteworthy to mention that FSSAI is very media friendly, in the last 2 years there were numerous interactions to showcase its “insurmountable” achievements. In fact, there is a media section on the landing page of FSSAI that depicts the collation of news articles

Brand ambassador of Eat Healthy initiative

Eat healthy is the most happening initiative currently in the food regulators compound. Other initiatives like safe food at workplaces, schools, workplaces etc., followed by its respective VIBGYOR spectrum (no pun intended, only difficulty in reciting) of books have intrigued media and subsequently a section of public. Further, few agencies that extended pro-bono support as “strategic partners” in implementing these initiatives have made good revenue by leveraging the connects. Known for its "adaptation" of global best practices, the regulator might have evaluated the ROI for such previous initiatives and have felt the need for effective dissemination of information. To his effect, Eat right movement endorsed by Mr. Rajkumar Rao (who consented to participate in the campaign “pro-bono”) could be an attempt to  personifying the campaign. This humble actor with no history of entanglements with brands would be a perfect start for the Indian FDA. As an actor, he had decent performances recently amidst a national and film fare award to his credits. We wish the best to both the Regulator and ambassador in persuading the large section of population to make healthy food choices. Further, Mr. Rajkumar would be an exemplary to his established co-stars who largely endorse HFSS products 

Why promoting eat healthy now ?

As per a white paper released by the Confederation of Indian Industry and academia “Every year, roughly 5.8 million Indians die from heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes. In other words, 1 in 4 Indians risks dying from an NCD before they reach the age of 70” . Taking into cognizance of many other studies and growing concerns of diabetes, VCDs and obesity in younger groups, FSSAI is soon going to adapt traffic light labeling system which is a prevailing practice elsewhere. In this regard, a draft regulation has been notified for comments. Upon finalization of these regulations, every pre-packaged food should depict the colours red, green, yellow etc., based on the percentage amount in the product composition. As a result of this, the consumers of all age groups could easily distinguish between the high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) beside other products at the point of sale. Snacks, chocolates, beverages are the most affected among other food products. A sample food labels post implementation is illustrated below 

Challenges to industry & change in branding strategies 

Many representations were earlier submitted to the regulator opposing the move for such labeling as FSSAI took this initiative from quite a longtime.  Ignoring the final product manufacturers, it is evident that the raw material producers like sugar, salt would eventually bring difficulties for effective implementation demonstrating the case impacting their economies of scale and benign nature of these ingredients.  

Exempting the inevitable operational challenges, the two-pronged focus of the pre-packed manufacturers to adapt these changes include – The emphasis will be on health & wellness hereafter 

1. Restructuring the business plan: R&D teams invest energies, time and money for new product development and in the light of these regulatory changes the business case has to be revisited to align with the new specifications. The key changes in the new product development (NPD)  include scouting for alternative ingredients, additives with functional class, product stability, safety and quality assessment etc., Considering these challenges, all the brands have made a "time-bound" promise to FSSAI for compliance to these regulations

2. Brand Re-positioning: As the current changes adversely impact the consumer preferences, every brand should reconsider its respective product, price and promotion strategies. Typically, the brand owner should make the changes to overhaul the brand perception in the marketplace. This may also result in phasing out of few SKUs, changing brand context, reconsidering brand ambassadors etc.,

Although, there was no significant industry participation in the recent event, FSSAI has called out for a support from the Industry during the campaign. Further, FSSAI also requested for self-adherence to these draft norm by re-formulating the products in a span of one year. Responding to the same, the very next day 15 major brands have unanimously “agreed” or “singed” or “pledged” to reform the products and comply with new HFSS norm latest by 2022
In conclusion, while it is interesting for the niche audience to understand the trade-offs that caused a paradigm shift in the consent from the industry on these norms (may be relaxations on the HFSS limits or in timelines for compliance & enforcement), we shall all have to wait for the final gazette notification to clear the smoke & mirrors

Till then lights on, camera rolling and action!

PS: Although, FSSAI tends to promote fortification in food in this initiative, we have not considered harp on it in the above article as it may need a separate dissertation on scientific and business rationale. 

(All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site)


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