The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will implement a 'health star rating' (HSR) system for packaged foods in 2022. Given that health labelling influences the purchasing decisions of Indian consumers, the FSSAI's HSR will drive the consumer and retailer shift towards healthier foods with higher star ratings, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData's Q3 consumer survey (2021) reveals that 62% of Indian consumers are often or always influenced in their product choices by health labelling.
The Indian food safety regulator's front-of-pack-labelling (FoPL) system will grade the nutritional profile of packaged 'food and drinks' on five stars, with more stars accorded to products with less fat, salt and sugar content.
The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad recommended the FSSAI to implement the Australian HSR system as it is perceived to be easier for consumers to understand than other FoPLs such as the UK's Traffic Lights, France's Nutri-Score, the Scandinavian KeyHole, and the Chilean Warning Labels.
The new regulations come at a time when non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and obesity have touched epidemic proportions in India due to excessive intake of high calorie food and drinks. Such junk food with empty calories is depriving consumers of much-needed nutrition, and thereby exacerbating the malnutrition crisis in India.
The HSR will enable consumers to easily compare products and make 'informed purchases' that will curtail the rising tide of NCDs due to unnecessary intake of high calorie food and drink.
Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Front-of-pack-labelling is expected to be more effective in educating consumers and modifying their behavior than the present 'back-of-pack' labeling. This will drive a trend towards healthier and more nutritious packaged processed foods and alleviate malnutrition.
“The FSSAI is expected to implement the HSR in a phased manner, giving food and beverage companies a timeline to comply with the new regulation. The HSR will have a seismic impact on the food and beverage industry in India compelling the manufacturers time to reformulate products for better ratings and reformat their packaging designs.”
Retailers will also come under pressure to stock shelves with healthier products, considering that 55% of Indian respondents in GlobalData's Q4 2021 consumer survey said that the availability/range of healthy and nutritious products is the most influential factor when deciding where to do their grocery shopping.
Verghese concludes: “The star rating will help shoppers to navigate better between the myriad of undefined health claims. However, as with every FoPL system, the HSR has drawbacks. While the system grades products according to the proportion of salt, sugar, and fat, it fails to consider the presence of nutrients such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and probiotics. It remains to be seen how the FSSAI will address such issues, and how it will implement the star rating.”
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