NEW DELHI: Food giants are limiting portion sizes to reduce the number of calories they serve to increasingly health-conscious Indian consumers.
Following a global policy by Unilever, its Indian unit Hindustan Unilever has reduced the calories in ice-creams. It wants to ensure that at least 80% of the packaged ice-creams it sells do not have more than 250 kilo calories per portion.
Starting next week, PepsiCo will roll out its colas in 150ml cans – the smallest in the domestic market. Rival Coca-Cola will introduce 180ml cans across its beverages portfolio next month in addition to its 300ml cans.
Indians are becoming more vulnerable to diseases arising from sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. One such disease, diabetes, is likely to affect 79.4 million people in India in 2030, more than double the number in 2000, according to data on the World Health Organization’s website.
“Unilever shares the public concern about the issue of obesity and related chronic diseases and the tremendous long-term challenge society the is facing to deal with them,” an
spokesperson said. The spokesperson said HUL has reformulated some products and reduced the sizes of others to bring calories in them to below 250 kilo calories. HUL sells Magnum and Cor netto ice-creams in India in both mini portions as well as regular sizes now.
“As a food manufacturer, we are clear we have a responsibility to help address this challenge both in our product formulation and in our public position,” the HUL spokesperson said.
Italian chocolate maker Ferrero is now selling its trademark premium gold round-shaped brand Ferrero Rocher in packs of three.
PepsiCo and Coca-Cola expect the availability of limited portions to spur consumption. Both companies have been reporting low single-digit volume sales growth, impacted by erratic summers and consumers curbing impulse buying.
“The new sizes in cans will be the smallest so far in the Indian market. The move is aimed at getting the calorie-conscious to consume the beverages with the pull factor that these are limited in calories,” a top beverage industry official said. “We plan to introduce 180ml cans and 300ml PET packs this year in some select markets only. For consumers, it means the flexibility to choose the serve size,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson said.
Some restaurant chains, too, are toeing a similar line. Dev Amritesh, chief operating officer at Dunkin’ Donuts India, said: “We have various options at various price points and portion sizes. For example, consumers can choose a big Tough Guy burger or a smaller Crunchy Joe. At the same time, they could go for an indulgent Death by Chocolate donut or a lighter Classic Glazed donut.”
Top retailers said limited size packs are becoming popular. “Portion control and tempered indulgence are gaining momentum. Consumers are consciously choosing smaller portions and brands are following suit as portion control has moved from the diet regime to mainstream consumers now,” said Devendra Chawla, group president, food and FMCG, at retailer Future group, which runs the Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar chains.
Chawla said categories where nutritional profile is under scrutiny are the first to adopt this. “As a trend, consumers are settling for taste-led products over diet ones, though they are limiting the frequency and size of intake,” he said. Sugar-free and diet beverages have posted higher sales than the previous year, but on a small base.