Creating Transparency Marketing Systems in packaged food products.

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Transparency is the state of easiness to see through, Letting know the true nature of something that happening or already happened.

Transparency of a product means knowing the true nature of the product to any individual that wishes to buy or use it. The true nature of the product can only be realized through the visualization of the real history of the product; from its raw material stage to the finished product. Transparency is not a luxury for customers but a must need for every product to communicate the reality of the product. Transparency marketing is about the effective communication of the real history of a product with the end consumers.

As well, adopting transparency creates new customers while making old customers happy, they should be empowered with as much information as possible related to food safety, quality, origin, and sustainability so that they can make informed decisions related to their food. It is a consumer’s right to know the details about what they buy.

Most companies use manual or paper-based processes especially when it comes to traceability, these systems are simply not accurate enough and cannot provide the visibility that is needed to provide the transparency consumers want. Knowing only the information one step back and one step forward in the supply chain is no longer enough. A company must implement whole supply chain traceability rather than relying solely on the movement of product within its own four walls.

It could be an incredible marketing advantage in the food industry. Transparency can enhance compliance with federal and state food-safety regulations, and significantly reduce the time it takes to resolve a food recall or withdrawal which helps tremendously with establishing and maintaining consumer trust.

Transparency for consumer-centric marketing

From a practicality standpoint, traceability is really about what you can track within the production cycle. Leaders in the industry were more likely than their peers to be able to track and trace their products from any stage in the value chain. This includes details on suppliers of raw materials used, operators who worked on the product (or an ingredient that was mixed into the product), equipment used in the manufacturing process, distribution, and even any customer complaints.

Without an integrated platform, a manufacturer will not be able to provide the transparency that consumers need today. Consumers are getting smarter about advertising and marketing programs. They want more transparent marketing. They want real-time information backed by real data. People feel empowered by the ability to access information.

The consumers are looking for ‘The information that’s relevant to them, when they want it, from the source that they want it from, at the time that consumer wants it. That’s part of what creates the challenge for companies today and the level of transparency gives consumers a greater sense of confidence they can trust in a product.

Many researchers conducted researches on the topic of transparency marketing in food products and were very thought-provoking. Some of the researches conducted on the topic show that transparency marketing is very essential to any food production companies to follow.

In 2016 an International research company ‘Label insight’ researched transparency marketing — “The 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study”

This study was conducted to know about consumer preferences and expectations for product transparency, and how important is it exactly for brands to provide? To explore this, Label Insight surveyed more than 1,500 consumers to determine how they make food choices, shop and what they expect from brands when it comes to product information. The survey results indicate that the vast majority of consumers value product transparency and consider a wide array of information about a particular product before making purchase decisions. The study also found that, for the most part, consumers today do not trust the way brands are currently providing them with this crucial information. Other key findings of the study were

• Consumers are confused about the ingredients in the food products they purchase.

• Consumers expect brands to provide complete and accurate product information.

• Brands have an opportunity to gain market share by providing increased transparency.

• Consumers are willing to pay more for the brands to provide transparent information about the product.

• Consumers are open to using digital channels to find the information they need.

• Lack of product information creates distrust and confusion among consumers.

Transparency is more than a list of ingredients and materials. Consumers place a significant value of importance on the source of ingredients; the origin of raw materials, the manufacturing, handling, and shipping of the product; and the sustainability, and policies of a brand along with labeling and packaging. There is an emergence of an Omnichannel to communicate transparency content across touchpoints. There is a significant opportunity to influence consumers by delivering transparency content through a proven medium.

Transparency marketing with integrated technologies

Defining a product with the data it creates from its journey from raw material to finished product is the only possible way to make transparency marketing happen. Building a culture of transparency-focused on safety and quality is critical for food products.

Transparency marketing in food products doesn’t just mean a new method of marketing, more than that, it focuses on the safety of food that we consume daily. It is very crucial that how we ensure transparency in the marketing of food products because tracking information about the product in every stage of its life cycle, like raw materials, food processing, packing, distributing and it’s quality in each stage is a big challenge. Hence we adopted the best technologies available today like Blockchain, IoT Artificial Intelligence, and FTIR Spectroscopy integrate, arrange in a way to create a tamperproof tracking system of the product lifecycle.

IoT sensors collect the data in real-time, Blockchain stores the data in a tamper-proof format, FTIR checks the quality of the produce and Ai interprets the stored data and finally through the mobile application we deliver the required information to end consumer to make his best choice with a trustable channel.

Why transparency in food products?

As mentioned earlier with label insight’s study on transparency for food products, it is a must feature for every food product to be transparent about the quality of the produce. Today people look into various certifications like FSSAI, HACCP, AGMARK, ISO, etc for ensuring the quality of the product. But these standards failed at some point to ensure the quality of the produce in the market. We saw the failure of many certifications due to adulteration and repacking of the product.

Consumer decision making will depend on advertisements and branding of the product, certifications, and price. But the consumer is not able to satisfy his right to know the value of the product whether it worthy of paying for it. A consumer should perceive that the product he about to purchase is genuine and worthy.

The certifications or advertisements or the pricing level doesn’t directly communicate with the end consumer about the information about the product.

In the present scenario, some companies supply adulterated and repacked food products in the market and companies who brand genuine food products, but both products compete in the same market and look alike with advertisements and certifications. When the consumer compares a genuine product and fake product he doesn’t feel any difference in terms of certifications and branding. But the fake product maybe with less price tag the consumer would buy that product. This behavior leads to fake or adulterated food products to gain more profit and win the competition. Meanwhile, genuine products cannot fail in the competition due to they cannot offer a great discount on the price to compete in the market.

But this competition is not real, because normally competition happens with two equal products of different brands, but here the product is not equal one is genuine and other is fake but Consumers perceive that these are the same products. The genuine brand failed to communicate their genuine and quality of the product and other Unique Selling points they hold to the end consumer. It is not the failure of the product but something is missing in the marketing and communication — Transparency of the product.

Transparency marketing is essential for genuine brands that sell the right product to the customer.

Hence transparency of the product quality is a must feature for consumers who looking for genuine products to buy and genuine brands who sell the product.

Problems of the food industry with special reference to coconut oil

We started our research on food safety and related issues when we saw the news about more than 100s of brands of coconut oil where banned in Kerala due to adulteration with sub-standard and harmful products.

We identified that more than 75% of coconut oil distributed in the Kerala market is adulterated with substandard products.

Around 90% of the company is intentionally adulterating the produce for profit.

No government authorities are willing to take any action to solve the problem of adulteration forever.

People don’t have a choice to know which brands sell genuine products.

Certifications are a one-time process and a lack of continuous quality assurance for every batch of production is absent.

This situation is not only with coconut oil similar situation is with many other food products in the market, like chili powder, Tea, Turmeric powder, Honey, etc.

Adulteration is one of the problems faced by food safety.

Adulteration is the process of adding sub-standard similar product with the genuine product for profit, Major reasons for adulteration are

(a) Improper quality maintaining methods and lousy attitude towards the food safety certifications and standards.

(b) Advertisements about the product, anything can be said about the product through ads, Lies can be repeated to make-believe by the consumers. Don’t need to define the real product.

In India, the quality standards for every product are described and controlled by the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards). Every company in the food manufacturing industry should maintain these standards for their product to maintain quality.

Below the Bureau Of Indian Standards description about the coconut oil

BIS Specification of coconut oil
BIS Specification of coconut oil

BIS put forward 7 parameters to ensure the quality of coconut oil. The problem with these parameters is it’s in range for eg: Iodine value 7.5 to 10 and this range can always be maintained with 2 or 3% of adulteration.

With interviewing many oil vendors we came to know that these 7 parameters can be satisfied without using coconut oil. This shows that the quality parameters described by the BIS are already cracked by local oil vendors.

BIS standards were published during 1986 and not updated and evolved. But oil manufacturers did many kinds of research on this to crack these quality parameters with substandard materials.

Coconut oil is an inevitable product in a Keralite kitchen and we pay a premium price for it. Around 70.83% of the population in Kerala consume coconut oil as the main medium of cooking.

It is usually adulterated with cheaper oils like

Palm Kernel Oil

Palm Kernel Oil is the favorite adulterant for brands who adulterate oil because its molecular structure is about 60% identical to coconut oil. The chemical characteristics especially fatty acid saturation level is almost identical with coconut oil and is very cheap. It blends easily with coconut oil and the adulteration of coconut oil with palm kernel oil only can find out more than 20% of mixing in the present situation.

Chips/Paring Oil

While manufacturing Desiccated Coconut Powder, the black skin in coconut is removed and the only kernel is powdered and dried to make the final product. This skin is a by-product. It is dried and sold at about 65% of the cost of copra. Like copra, it is also rich in oil content. But the quality of the oil is inferior to that from copra. Most manufacturers mix these chips with copra for oil extraction. Sophisticated manufacturers extract oil separately, refine, bleach and deodorize it to remove excess FFA, dark color and bad odor. This is later mixed with pure coconut oil or packed as it is. The possible defense is it is oil extracted out of coconut and is hence coconut oil. That unit is not to be blamed (legally) as this oil can be used for making soaps.

Second-grade oil

Best Copra is white and has a pleasant odor. Rotten copra will be darker and have a pungent smell. Due to inferior quality, they are available at a lesser price compared to superior grades. This copra can be mixed with good quality copra during oil extraction. The resulting oil will appear good but will deteriorate quickly. Copra manufactured from Coconut comes in all grades. Edible grade sells at the highest rate and it is separated. Of the remaining, ideally second quality copra should be segregated, but many millers don’t.

This can be detected by just checking the FFA/Acid Value. Lower the acid value better the quality. Good quality oils have an FFA of less than 0.7. Allowed is up to 2.0 for edible use.

Refined Coconut Oil

Excess of FFA (Free Fatty Acids) in Coconut Oil can be chemically removed by neutralizing with a base, this is called refining. Coconut Oil extracted from second quality copra or that is solvent extracted from coconut oil cake is refined. This refined oil passes all the chemical parameters of food safety, but the consumer is deprived of its taste, aroma, and quality. Re-packers buy inferior quality coconut oil and mix it with refined coconut oil to balance FFA. Surprisingly refined coconut oil is cheaper than just filtered coconut oil.

There are many numbers of substandard products that could be used for adulteration in coconut oil, and it’s very hard to find out with the standard technologies used in Quality Control labs by coconut development board.

Advertisement About the product

Advertisements never defined the product genuinely, Product is defined by poetic words and phrases to attract more consumers to remember their brand names. Never had they tried to show transparency in the product. And the great thing is advertisements don’t need to be true. But consumers will believe it.

This vulnerability of advertisements paved the way for the growth of adulterated food products in the market.

A genuine product’s ad and fake product’s ad look-alike, fake brands and genuine brands will say the same thing through their ad that they have the purest product.

Along with the advertisements, certifications satisfy what they said and these two paradigms confuse the people in purchase decision making.

Comparison of fake product and genuine product
Comparison of fake product and genuine product

The above example is the real situation in the market. The only price may be slightly low for the fake product, even if we choose the higher price from the same product category how we will know that is a genuine product?

What is the possible way to know the price a consumer paying worthy of the product?

These confusions can be solved through a trustable and transparent channel and that is what we are trying to build, a transparent platform to define the product with the data it creates throughout its journey from raw material to finish product and to trace the quality of the product at every stage and make it transparent to the end consumer.

A possible way to create adulteration free food products

To make available adulteration free products in the market we introduce farm to fork transparency system backed by quality metrics. We collect the real-time data with minimum human intervention and make it transparent to end consumer to make sure the consumer buy the right product for his choice.

Two major problems are solving

1) End to end quality assuring of the product

2) Transparent communication with the end consumer

For ensuring the quality of the product from farm to table we introduce the Vibrathon score for defining the quality of a product. The quality metrics from farm to table will be compounded by the quality of the product at each stage.

Quality metrics are formulated with FTIR Spectroscopy results of Soil, Raw material, final product and Cultivation method, seed type used for cultivation and package quality.

According to change in the product, Contents in the quality metrics will also change. But total weightage for the quality will be in a hundred where weightage will be provided for each content according to the dependency of the content over the product quality.

The sample quality metrics are described below.

Vibrathon transparency score
Vibrathon transparency score

The Quality Score for the product for every batch of the product will be different, depending on the changes in the variables.

How this is valuable?

We define quality in terms of most suitable for human consumption. The idea is, the food products with high Vibrathon scores will be nature-friendly and continuous consumption of the product will never harm human health.

We integrate FTIR Spectroscopy to ensure the quality of the product in each stage. FTIR spectroscopy is a cutting edge tool in the quality assurance it provides the Fingerprint analysis of molecular vibrations of the sample.

Why FTIR Spectroscopy?

IR spectroscopy is one of the vibrational spectroscopies intensively used for the characterization of all aspects of edible oils. IR spectroscopy can be defined as the interaction between electromagnetic radiation in the IR region in the form of scattering, reflection, absorption or transmission with substances analyzed (for example edible oils) as a function of wavenumbers. The frequencies or wavelengths, at which samples absorb IR radiation and their corresponding intensities (either transmittance or absorbance), are recorded into an IR spectrum. IR spectroscopy can be taken into account as an ideal technique for analysis of edible oils because this technique is rapid, ease in sample presentation, non-destructive and non-invasive, meaning that the samples analyzed with IR spectroscopy can be analyzed using different instruments.

Below shows a sample FTIR Spectroscopy result. Every up and down in the graph show the chemicals and their compounds present in the sample.

FTIR Spectrum
FTIR Spectrum

FTIR Spectroscopy analysis can be used for finding even 1% of adulteration; even a small change in the product can be identified.

FTIR Spectroscopy is already used in many products like diamond, birth Stones, gold and many other high-end products. Even some of the quality checking labs use FTIR for food quality tests.

For analyzing the quality of the product we check the quality of different variables involved in the making of the final product.

FTIR Spectrum of soil, raw material, final product
FTIR Spectrum of soil, raw material, final product

FTIR test report of the soil of the raw material produced, the raw material of the product, and the quality of the final product are compounded to obtain the final quality score of the product.

Other than the above-mentioned variables we also take into consideration factors like

Cultivation method

The cultivation method means whether the crop is cultivated using organic fertilizers and organic pesticides or the farm use harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Nonorganic farming may produce more products in weight and color but the quality (Health friendly to humans) of the product could be very low. We prefer the organic farming method as healthy.

Weather condition

Weather conditions at the farm location will affect crop quality and harvest quality. Many varieties of crops would be highly dependent on the climate and location of the farm. Crops like Tea, cardamom, etc is highly dependent on the climate and location.

The quality of seed

If a farm use genetically modified seeds, it may affect the health of the consumers in long term consumption. And the nutritional value will also differ. Many other varieties of seeds of the same crop are used for cultivation, we give more value for naturally originated crops.

Package quality

Packing with high-end material or with low-quality materials will surely affect the quality of the produce. Even the produce is good quality but the package quality is very cheap, the whole produce is harmful to health, so this variable is very critical in determining the quality of the produce.

We provide weightage for each of these variables according to the relevance of the variable for the quality of the produce. And all these data are interpreted with Artificial Intelligence to get the best out of quality score.

When we integrate Ai to this engine it becomes intelligent with the abundance of data and we can determine the best quality of a product.

Transparency Communication

We enable a trustable channel to communicate the quality with the end consumer. We make sure the information pass to the end consumer is true and secured. We make it happen with Blockchain technology, this is the backbone technology that stores each piece of data from farm to fork with minimum human intervention.

Blockchain is the new trust protocol where the information is time-stamped in a highly secure manner which is immutable and irreversible.

With the integration of IoT sensors in each data collection point, the engine will collect the data with minimum human interference.

These high-end technologies are integrated in a way to collect information about the product at each stage of the production process and share it with the end consumer with transparency.

This information about the product is shared with the end consumer with the help of a mobile application.

The consumer who is about to buy this product can scan a QR Code on the product and know the quality and other details about the product.

To know more working transparency marketing model visit our website vibrathon

Creating transparency marketing systems in packaged food products to make people aware what they eat!

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