The Indian proprietary foods sector has one of the most diverse range of offerings, but the traditional lack of adequate regulatory benchmarking meant that it also remained an unorganised sector.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), categorises all food items into two categories.

Standardised foods
All food products that have clearly defined regulations, and are manufactured by a licensed food business operator only as long as the manufacturer complies with the specific product related standards and rules.

Proprietary foods
The category of proprietary foods includes all food items not covered under the standardised food category. Excluding nutraceuticals, dietary foods, foods for medicinal purposes, health supplements and other such items for which it is possible to determine standardisation of ingredients and minimum ingredient quantity benchmarks.

However, one of the biggest impediments in regularisation of the proprietary food sector in India was the cumbersome licensing and testing mechanism which used to be difficult for the SMEs, small shops and vendors etc. In view of the pandemic, almost all industry verticals have transitioned to digital technologies and focused on using the advanced tools to streamline and optimise processes.

The FSSAI has also undertaken a digital transformation by launching the ‘Food Safety Connect’ mobile app recently. The App is a great step forward as it addresses some of the key areas of concern for the food makers and consumers alike. Let’s take a look.

Registration for Proprietary Food Business Operators (FBOs)
The app is going to be a game-changer as far as easing the registration and compliance processes for the proprietary FBOs is concerned. All information related to the registration process such as the documentation required, the regulations applicable and the details of the necessary processes set by Government for establishment of a Proprietary Foods based Company are noted in the App. This also helps determine whether the company belongs to the MSME category or not.

Transparency and credibility
The aim of the government is to bring in complete transparency in the Proprietary Foods sector. The regulations in the app mandate the companies to disclose all information related to the ingredients used in various stages of manufacturing process including the by-products. The procedure for cultivation of Hemp seeds and its products is compliant with Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. There has to be strict adherence to ensure that Hemp seeds or its products are not consumed by infants up to the age of 24 months.

If either the final product offered in the market or a by-product of the manufacturing process is found to be flawed, the rules imply that the person amenable will be penalised.

To further enhance the awareness and transparency levels, the new app also provides information to retailers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers about new or recent schemes that Government launches to build public awareness.

Testing and Sampling
For products that require testing before being distributed in the market, there is a list of labs authorised by Government to carry out such tests.

At times, some food items have different microbiological standards that need to be sampled before the launch of the product, and it is necessary to attain the ISO certificate for those products or food items. For such scenarios, the app mentions the clear guidelines that need to be followed.

To begin with, there is a need to get the product tested from three different Government approved laboratories. This mechanism leads to independent analysis, values and figures, and depending upon the credentials given by the labs, the product’s market value is ascertained. There is complete focus on preventing misuse of authority, and the app also enlists the Reference Tests to be done on the product.

Consumer Empowerment
The app offers consumers with access to a knowledge hub wherein they can watch informational videos, read books, myth buster facts, and check other guidance documents related to safe and healthy eating practices.

There is also provision for the app to be used as a mechanism for the consumers to easily verify a food vendor’s FSSAI license or the registration on any food packet. Further, they will also be able to lodge their grievances related to food safety issues through the app.

Benefits of the App for the Proprietary Foods Companies
As a proprietary foods firm with a rich legacy and market reputation, the new app and regulations are helping us as well as other proprietary food companies. As a brand that continues to complies with relevant Indian and global standards of food production, we are now able to scale faster and display the quality of our food items with greater conviction in the domestic as well as overseas markets. The potential for Indian proprietary foods and snacks is humongous, but in the past, it was the lack of quality adherence by many players that made global growth more challenging even for the most compliant brands.

Now with such a futuristic and technology-driven initiative, FSSAI has paved the path for the evolution of proprietary foods segment into an organised and regulated sector with transparency and accountability.

This approach is demonstrative of how India is steadily moving towards adoption of global standards in even the most traditional business arenas. This augurs well for the whole proprietary foods ecosystem, and will ensure that the Indian proprietary foods are now able to compete strongly in all international markets.