FSSAI is changing the game: Is your packaged food brand ready?

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In this opinion piece, Almond Branding's Shashwat Das writes how FMCG brands can navigate the new packaging guidelines that FSSAI could bring forth and all you need to know about FOPL.

If you are a packaged food brand in India, are you feeling a bit salty about the new regulations from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)? Take a deep breath. The good news is that they are still in draft mode and the final regulations will be out after several discussions and debates.

However, it's always better to know what's boiling in the pot, so we can prep ourselves for whatever weird dish the future may serve us. After all, no one likes a meddling government telling them what to do. But fear not, dear brands! This article is here to help you navigate these choppy waters to keep up with the evolving regulations.

So, one of the things the FSSAI is contemplating introducing is the Front-of-Pack-Labelling (FOPL) for packaged foods to curb the consumption of junk food. Sounds good, right? Well, some brands are concerned that it might deter consumers from buying their products. I mean, who wants to see a big red warning label saying "HIGH SUGAR CONTENT" on their favourite ice cream or chocolate?

To those who are new to the game, FOPL is a nutrition labelling system that puts all the juicy details about what's in your food right up front where you can't miss it – The Front of the Pack. Consider it a food version of Tinder where you can easily swipe right or left based on the nutritional value of the packaged food. 

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It is like a cheat sheet that tells you everything you need to know about the food you're about to devour or like having a nutritionist whispering in your ear, "Go ahead, take that second serving, you're good!" 

Most developed countries already follow this practice, but in India, we're still stuck in the past with nutritional information hidden at the back or side of the pack. And to add some spice to the mix, salt doesn't even make the cut in the required declaration.

Of course, this has got some of our beloved FMCG brands shaking in their boots.

Well, rumour has it that a few folks in the food industry are a tad worried that putting upfront warnings about high trans-fat or sugar content could scare away customers faster than a swarm of bees. And let's face it, that's never good for business! 

We can imagine that implementing FOPL would mean less space for branding. Plus, there seems to be a bit of a disagreement over which ingredients should be highlighted in the FOPL. It's like trying to decide who gets to sit at the cool kids' table - only with more salt and sugar.

But that’s not all, folks! The FSSAI has cooked up another proposal: five-star ratings on packaged foods just as you have for ACs and refrigerators, but some industry experts are not quite feeling the starry-eyed excitement. 

Personally, I am not a big fan of the new five-star rating system as it might end up being as useful as a fork in a soup. The five-star rating system might leave you scratching your head. I mean, seriously, how are we supposed to understand if a food product with 5 stars has more sugar than a chocolate factory? It's like trying to decipher a secret code but without the fun of being a spy.

No wonder, most countries that have adopted the FOPL have chosen to give warning labels instead of health-star ratings.

But with FOPL on the horizon, how can you be prepared for the future? Is it time to start panicking? I would rather say it’s time to get creative!

Just remember to keep it truthful, or you'll be in a sticky situation.

Embrace the change:

First and foremost, let's address the elephant in the room – the impact of added salt, sugar, and fat on our health. It's time to take responsibility for the impact our products have on the consumers. So, instead of trying to hide behind complicated nutritional information on the back of the package, why not embrace the FOPL with open arms?

Sure, you might have to change your packaging and lose some of that precious branding space, but let’s be honest, how many really read the tiny nutritional information on the back of the pack? With FOPL, your consumers will know exactly what they’re getting into, and that’s a good thing, right?

Go healthy:

This might sound crazy, but hear me out. FSSAI wants you to include a "cautionary warning" on the amount of added salt, sugar, and fat in the front labelling of packaged foods. And if you're thinking, "Oh no, that'll scare away our customers!", well, maybe it's time to start rethinking your ingredients too.

Instead of trying to hide behind a warning label, why not create a product that actually promotes health? Imagine a world where you can enjoy your favourite snacks guilt-free! Who knows, you might even create a whole new trend.

Make peace with it:

It’s happening, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, why not just accept the change and move on? You never know, you might actually see an increase in sales as people become more conscious of what they’re consuming.

The new regulations from FSSAI may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but just remember to be honest about what's inside, and your customers will appreciate your transparency.

So there you have it, FMCG brands. Don’t be scared of the new FOPL norms, embrace them with open arms (or in this case, open packets). Who knows, you might just end up surprising yourself!

In all seriousness, though, these FSSAI norms are a step in the right direction for promoting healthier eating habits in India. And as FMCG brands, it's important to adapt and evolve with the changing times. So, let's embrace these changes and use our creativity to make healthier products that still taste great.

This article is penned by Shashwat Das, Founder - Almond Branding.

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