Packaging industry responds to Bournvita controversy

Social media influencer Revant Himatsingka claimed Cadbury’s Bournvita to be unfit as a health drink owing to its high sugar content. Mithul Kurlekar, Durgesh Chaudhari and Ninad Deshpande spoke to WhatPackaging? Team the raging controversy.

20 Apr 2023 | By Aditya Ghosalkar

(l-r) Mithul Kurlekar of TCPL Packaging; Ninad Deshpande of Cambridge University Press; Durgesh Chaudhari of Meril Life Sciences

Post the legal notice and deleting of the controversial video-post, FSSAI has been mulling bringing in Health Star Rating norms for packed food with front-of-pack labelling. Mithul Kurlekar, packaging development engineer at TCPL Packaging said, “The labels should convey complex information in an understandable and standardised manner. To communicate better nutritional information."

But is this do-able?

As per Durgesh Chaudhari, packaging development executive at Meril Life Sciences, the government may frame stricter regulations and new guidelines. Chaudhari added, “The strict notification will be for the materials. The printing and packaging industry will not be affected due to such an incident. The only part which will be affected is the brand name. As packaging engineers, we shape and make things aesthetic rather than placing objectionable or irrelevant text on the pack.” 

However, Mithul Kurlekar said that the new rules may have an impact on the sales of specific food items for specific organisations, which will indirectly result in a decline in demand for packaging products, creating worry for the printing and packaging industries.

In September 2022, the statutory body issued a draft notification on front-of-package labelling that proposed the “Indian Nutrition Rating”. The health star-rating system for packaged foods will assign 1/2 a star (least healthy) to five stars (healthiest) depending on the ingredients and the degree of processing.

Ninad Deshpande, associate product supply coordinator, at Cambridge University Press said, “The main benefit of the Health Star Rating system is that it provides consumers with a quick and easy way to identify healthier food choices. For instance, a food product might be rated two or four stars based on its nutritional content. Similar to how a movie is rated in the film industry based on reviews from viewers, a food product based on its Health Star Rating can ensure a healthy choice for consumers.”

Durgesh Chaudhari said that the nutrition information on food labels is complex. He added, “Sometimes it does not live up to its potential to communicate effectively. Case in point is Bournvita campaign. The Bournvita contains sugar but on the package, the company has not highlighted the other factors such as immunity, health.”

The Bournvita-matter which has been in the news since the past few days, began with influencer Revant Himatsingka who has 1,35,000 followers, posting a video on 1 April, 2023 which spoke about high sugar content in Bournvita. Mondelez debunked his claim and issued a legal notice to take down the video. On cue, Revant Himatsingka deleted the video post and sought an apology.

In the now-deleted video, Himatsingka claimed that post-Covid the company added an ‘immune system’ to provoke sales while misbranding. He said the ingredients used in Bournvita, especially the colouring agent, is likely to cause diabetes.

“We would again like to reinforce that the formulation has been scientifically crafted by a team of nutritionists and food scientists to offer the best of taste and health. All our claims are verified and transparent and all ingredients have regulatory approvals. All the necessary nutritional information is mentioned on the pack for consumers to make informed choices,"

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