Some food processing companies now brand their products as ‘adulterant free’ and ‘toxic metal free’, and work with farmers to ensure quality raw material, to differentiate themselves amid increasing consumer awareness and safety concerns.
LT Foods that sells Dawat brand of rice, for example, will market its soon-to-be-launched atta (flour) brand as toxic metal free. “We will be launching our atta under the Devaaya brand. It will be branded as lead free and will resonate our company’s philosophy of selling safe produce,” said Vivek Chandra, chief executive officer for global branded business at LT Foods.
Shakti Bhog Foods, Mother Dairy, Cargill India and ITC are among other companies that have started branding their products as safe and chemicals free, or working closely with farmers to ensure quality and safety.
“Companies who are just entering the sector or a product category might highlight food safety as product differentiator while marketing. It wasn’t used till a year ago but now it is used,” said Siraj Chaudhary, chairman at Cargill India.
The company in July started a Surakshit Khadya Abhiyan to promote awareness around food safety for all. “Cargill believes that food safety is a shared responsibility of the farmers, the food industry, regulators as well as consumers,” Chaudhary said.
Consumer concerns over food safety have been rising in the country in recent months, particularly after Food Safety and Standards Authority of India banned Nestle’s popular instant noodle brand Maggi.
While the Bombay High Court lifted the ban and Nestle is readying to relaunch the instant noodle brand after it proved safe in review tests mandated by the court, the controversy and FSSAI’s recent actions against several products helped increase overall consumer awareness about food safety, industry insiders said.
LT Foods’ Chandra said the company will work with farmers in Madhya Pradesh during this Rabi season to ensure quality products. “India consumer wants safe and healthy produce which we will ensure,” he said.
KK Kumar, managing director at Shakti Bhog Foods, said companies are now working to bring global standards to India. “There is a focus to sell quality produce and consumers are now demanding it strongly,” he said.
Kumar said the moisture level in Shakti Bhog flour is only 10.5%, much lower than the 14% limit prescribed by the government. In the past, Tata group had branded its i-Shakti Dals as being much more nutritious and tastier because they did not use polished or damaged pulses, artificial stone powder, colour, or oil.
Similarly, Mother Dairy markets its pulses brand as being unpolished. “Most of the people may be aware that colours, chemicals and metals are part of the food and fruit we eat. What needs to be highlighted now is that the shining white ginger sold in the Delhi market may have got an acid wash or the brinjal must have got a colour wash,” said a marketing official of a leading national retail chain.
Food companies said governments, farmers and companies need to work together to ensure quality of food. The challenge in the country is much larger than what few companies can do for their brand and sourcing. The government needs to address the larger challenge like mapping of soil or water quality in this country,” said Rajnikant Rai, COO for agribusiness division at ITC.