Upcoming labelling guidelines and demand for healthier F&B products triggers new investments for healthy foods

With front-of-pack labelling guidelines on packaged foods and beverages closing in, many food and beverage brands are fast-tracking on no-sugar and diet products, with first time campaigns, launches and big investments. This is also to respond to consumer buying habits, which have changed significantly post-COVID-19. For the first time, beverages and snacks maker PepsiCo India is introducing a mainstream campaign for its zero-sugar cola, Pepsi Black.

Parle Products senior category head, Mr. Mayank Shah affirms that a combination of upcoming labelling guidelines and higher consumer demand for healthier products post-COVID-19 is triggering new investments in the healthier foods space and a significant reduction in sugar and salt in packaged foods. Britannia Industries stated in an investor presentation that it is working to reduce its portfolio’s sodium content by 6% and sugar content by 8% by March 2024.The maker of Nutrichoice and Tiger biscuits is the country’s largest biscuit maker. Hershey India has introduced a 30% less-sugar variant of its Kisses chocolate, which it said was its first launch of a less-sugar chocolate variant of the global brand.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is preparing guidelines to introduce front-of-pack labelling, either through a star rating system or warning labels on the basis of ingredients such as salt, sugar, and fats in packaged foods and beverages. The regulator had mandated the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, to conduct a detailed report on front-of pack labelling for packaged and processed foods in the middle of last year, the first time an external entity was roped in for the purpose.

The draft guidelines are expected to be introduced by year’s end, following which the final guidelines will be released. The move is expected to significantly impact the consumption of packaged foods. Health advocacy groups have flagged that the regulator needs to introduce the labelling guidelines, which have been in draft stages for more than seven years, urgently to curb consumption of foods with sugar and salt in excess of threshold limits.