The Festive season is already knocking at the door but imported foods and beverages continue to be in short supply due to the FSSAI’s guidelines. Food and beverage firms like Lindt chocolates, Cadbury, Mars, Diageo, Ferrero Group, Tata Starbucks Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, William Grant & Sons, Brown – Forman and giants like GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare have all come under the FSSAI scanner. Imported chocolates, liquor and canola oil are facing the biggest brunt.
The stringency in the implementation of labelling regulations by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that began last year is continuing this year as well. FSSAI’s stringent policy has resulted in delays in product approval and stocks worth more than Rs 18.000 crores are languishing at various Indian ports. Besides this, FSSAI has sent back shipments of imports if the logo/license, batch number, importer’s name, packaging and expiry date were not found to be in keeping with FSSAI labelling regulations.
This festive season, high end customers will also find it difficult to gift imported food items like cookies, fine foods, olives, candies and chocolates. These items comprise around 1/3rd of annual sales for most importers. There is fear among importers that some premium wellness foods stocks may have already deteriorated in the hot Indian summer as these are mostly perishable items. Gourmet restaurants that use specialized imported food ingredients, particularly for Japanese and Mexican food, have been hit hard too.
Oktoberfest, the German beer festival, has just kicked off all over the world. The Indian consumer, however, will be able to taste only four German beer brands as others are either out of stock or have been sent back for non compliance of labelling norms. Beer companies follow certain set of labelling norms that are standardized all over the world. However, Indian standards are different. Since Indian import market for beer is not that large, big beer companies do not want to make a different label for beer imports into India.
Liquor stocks of brands like Johnnie Walker Black Label, The Singleton, and Talisker and other spirits and wines are all facing shortage as stocks have depleted. Liquor firms are willing to change labels but are finding it difficult as liquor industry is governed by states which allow labelling changes only at the time of annul state excise label registration.
The consortium of alcohol beverage companies, representatives of the hospitality industry and food and beverage importers have been in talks with FSSAI and some have even offered solutions. However, the hope of an early resolution seems unlikely. In the meantime some chocolate companies have closed their operations in India. Some food importers have exited the food and beverage import business and still others are staring at huge financial losses as the impasse with FSSAI continues.