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Label Padhega India: A key step to build consumer awareness

May 24,2024

Mumbai: The ‘Label Padhega India’ campaign, an important step in building domestic consumer activism and fostering awareness, underscores the inherent issues related to product labelling locally. Still, products aimed at more sensitive consumer segments, such as children, may undergo greater manufacturer scrutiny.

“Label Padhega India campaign has the potential to become the second largest consumer campaign after the ‘Jaago Grahak Jaago’ campaign by the Indian government,” said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy specialist. “However, for that to happen, the digital marketing has to be strong. Companies will not pay heed to the campaign until it gains larger traction and manages to yield a change in consumer behaviour. The onus on the influencers is to garner traction for the campaign by advertising it on a larger scale across media.”

Product labelling in India faces several issues – ranging from non-compliance with the regulations, language barriers, misinformation and misleading claims, inconsistent labelling standards, illegible labels, lack of transparency, inadequate enforcement of the labelling regulations and imported goods not meeting the Indian labelling standards.

“The campaign is an effective step in the right direction with its timing being right – coming days after the Supreme Court strictures on Patanjali and its founders for misleading advertisements,” said business strategist and FMCG industry expert Lloyd Mathias. “However, there are issues with product labelling in India.”

Consumers, globally, do not generally read the product labels minutely to find out about the ingredients used. Hence, the use of pictorial labels has become more widespread. Countries such as Chile, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Israel have implemented the use of pictorial warnings on food labels. For instance, Chile uses black octagonal signs to indicate high levels of sugar, sodium, calories and saturated fats. In India, green dots on food products indicate that the product is vegetarian.

But, as Mathias said, the intended outcome from product labelling faces a question mark due to inherent issues.

“First, to what extent companies are truthful about their labels. Second, how stringent is the law enforcement on product labelling by the FSSAI. Third, local and small brands selling snacks or fast foods go past the FSSAI regulations,” Mathias said. “However, the campaign is important in drawing public attention toward nutritional information about the product and is likely to appeal to young, urban consumers. It emphasises that the onus is on the consumer to make an informed buying decision.

The jury is out on the potential impact of the campaign on buying behaviour.

“I don’t think that the campaign will make a significant difference in terms of consumer buying patterns, since most consumers are either making a conscious choice or don’t have alternative options to choose from,” said Sachin Bobade, VP – research, Dolat Capital.

To be sure, product labelling is a small aspect of consumer awareness. “Displaying labels as part of the advertising campaign proves to be more effective than simply product labelling since only around 0.2% of the consumers in India read packaging on the product,” Bijoor said.

“The law currently doesn’t mandate showing labels in the product advertising. But a display of the product label in a digital ad is effective in communicating the contents to the consumer.”

The Label Padhega India campaign nevertheless is likely to prompt companies to re-jig their product portfolio. According to Mathias, the companies are very sensitive about what is said about them. “Once the campaign starts garnering attention, a lot of companies will look at ways in which their labelling can become better,” he said.

“The campaign may prompt companies to relook at their product portfolio – especially the ones targeted for kids,” said Bobade.

“Companies will have to change the contents or proportion of sugar, salt or fats in the products – that may lead to changes in taste and increase in prices. But their concern would be whether consumers continue to prefer the products with changed taste and higher prices,” he said.

“A sizable public chatter building up shall make the regulator wake up. The regulator can issue specifications related to the size, font and other details of the label, guidelines for companies to follow especially when they are selling the same product in different parts of the world and improve the enforcement of the laws at the last mile,” Mathias added.

Source: Economic Times

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