Chronic diseases have emerged as the leading causes of death in India, accounting for about seven out of ten deaths in the country. The burden of chronic diseases is predicted to continue to escalate due to the changing lifestyle and behaviour patterns. One of the most common lifestyle-related diseases is obesity that is rapidly increasing due to the growing industrialization and rapid urbanization. The worldwide prevalence of overweight and obesity has doubled since 1980 to an extent that nearly a third of the world population is now classified as overweight or obese. Globally, 678 million adults, or 1 in 8, were obese in 2018. According to the 2019 UN report, obesity contributes to an estimated 4 million deaths and costs of approximately $2 trillion annually to the global economy. With a mission to lead and drive global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity, the World Obesity Federation (WOF) launched World Obesity Day in 2015 that is now observed globally on October 11.
With more than 135 million individuals affected by obesity in India, abdominal obesity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVDs). The WOF estimates about three out of ten Indians are expected to be obese by 2025. The prevalence of obesity in India varies due to age, gender, geographical environment, socio-economic status, etc. Various studies have shown that the prevalence of obesity among women were significantly higher as compared to men. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research-India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) 2017 study that conducted the most comprehensive analysis of physical activity patterns across states, has found that women are far less active than men. The study has also revealed that the prevalence of obesity is higher among the urban populations, high socioeconomic states and also in South India.
Another major concern is childhood obesity with India having the second highest number of obese children in the world standing at a number of 14.4 million. Even though the occurrence of obesity among children is lower than adults, childhood obesity has grown at a faster rate than adult obesity in India. From 1998 to 2018, the prevalence of obesity in childhood and adulthood is rapidly spurting due to sedentary life style and consumption of high calories food. Most calories in the diet come from the ultra-processed foods. Despite presence of high percentages of sugar, salt, and fat, processed foods sell because they are cheap and convenient.
In fact the trio of salt, sugar and fat has taken on a new psycho-sensory dimension over the years when the food industry discovered that these ingredients could be used to produce a state of satiety and pleasure for the consumers. According to a global survey conducted by the George Institute for Global Health in 2019, packaged food in India has been ranked lowest in terms of its healthiness. The survey highlights the high levels of sugar, saturated fat, salt and calories in many of our favorite packaged food items. India’s packaged foods and drinks were found to be the most energy-dense with a kilojoule content of 1515 kJ/100 g.
“Because of the current situation, the Indian population is becoming more aware of the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is leading to an increasing need for lifestyle managers in the country. Sensing the opportunity, FMCG companies and digital health startups are already moving aggressively to meet the shifting needs of the consumers. Startups are coming up with new personalized digital solutions for prevention and management of obesity, and maintaining healthy lifestyle on one hand, while the FMCG companies are launching a whole new line of Smart and Healthy food products on the other”, shares Sriram Shrinivasan, Partner, Global Emerging Markets Leader, Life Sciences, EY.
In June 2019, chocolate maker Mondelez launched a new variant of its popular Dairy Milk chocolate with 30 per cent less sugar. In line with this, Del Monte has pledged to reduce added sugar, salt and fat by 20-30 per cent in relevant products by 2025 while Kellogg plans to cut sugar and salt in its ready-to-eat by 10-30 per cent by 2020. Marico on the other hand has pledged to reduce salt by 15 per cent in new products like Saffola Mustard Oats by 2020 and Patanjali is coming up with sugar-free Chyawanprash and plans to reduce sugar in its existing Chyawanprash by 3-5 per cent. Adding to the list, Nestle India aims to further cut down added sugar by six per cent, salt by 10 per cent and fat by 2.5 per cent by 2020, whereas Hindustan Unilever (HUL) will reduce use of sodium salts in 75 per cent of its offerings to the level of five gram per day. ITC too intends to reduce salt by 10 percent in 75 per cent of its noodles and snacks portfolio by 2023. A step ahead, Britannia has already reduced the sugar content by 6 per cent per serving over the last six years and has committed to reducing it further by 5 per cent in next 5 years.
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Industry Banks On Technology For Milk Safety
In October 2019, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released a full report after carrying out a survey on safety and quality of liquid milk in the country. Although the survey results hint towards demolishing milk adulteration perception, an in-depth analysis of the report reveals that 1 in 10 packets of milk purchased by consumers could be unsafe. Hence more is required in the dairy sector in order to address the issue of milk adulteration at all levels. On a whole, further steps are required to be taken to achieve transparency and efficiency in the dairy sector of India through public private partnership and best use of technology.
IRRESPONSIBLE ADVERTISING UNDER SCANNER
To increase the monitoring on misleading advertisements in the food and beverages sector, the FSSAI signed a MoU with ASCI, the self-regulatory body of advertisement industry in 2016. As per the agreement ASCI comprehensively monitor the advertisements across various media. The move by the two regulators to work together has resulted in reduction in filing of complaints.
Plastic Ban - A Boon Or Bane?
This Independence day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a pledge to ban the use of single-use plastic by October 2. Although the plastic ban is directed towards a healthier environment, businesses in the food, beverage retail and e-commerce industries are set to be the most affected by this development. Now all stakeholders are working on finding alternatives to plastic.
With a mission to lead and drive global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity, the World Obesity Federation (WOF) launched World Obesity Day in 2015 that is now observed globally on October 11. With more than 135 million individuals affected by obesity in India, abdominal obesity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVDs). The WOF estimates about three out of ten Indians are expected to be obese by 2025. India needs to gather some learning lessons from other countries where the industry is collaborating with regulators to achieve regulatory environments that are conducive for product reformulation, labelling and marketing regulation, ensuring a range of healthy options for consumers.
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In 2016, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region's food and beverage industry achieved an estimated turnover of $3.23 trillion, and was backed by a consistent year-on-year growth rate of 11 per cent, presenting a wealth of opportunities. With rising incomes and growing awareness of healthy eating among a burgeoning middle and upper class, the food companies see a clear opportunities for them in the region.
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