Metter-Toledo is a leader in check weighing and inspection systems for food packaging. It is well established in India and works with the food processing and packaging industry. Naresh Khanna, editor of Packaging South Asia, recently had an opportunity to interview Sanjoy Mallik, the general manager of Mettler-Toledo in India.
Packaging South Asia – Please comment on the food safety issues in general and particularly concerning packaged foods. Do the FSSAI guidelines and regulations cover the safety issues, or is there some need to expand the guidelines in some areas? In what ways should industry exceed the regulatory requirements and structures, and what is the most economical way to achieve this.
Sanjoy Mallik – As an emerging country, India is witnessing a growing demand for domestic and export packaged food products. With increased domestic consumption of processed and packaged food driven by lifestyle changes, plus a renewed focus on product safety, as a result of the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, several new local and international packaged food players are entering the country or expanding their operations in India.
Regarding food safety issues, food manufacturers are continuing to pay a lot of attention to biological and chemical contamination. Regarding this, there is always scope for increasing the focus on physical contamination. More importantly, new players need to get up to speed with food safety laws and better understand the infrastructure required to comply in an affordable/sustainable manner.
Currently, food safety is in good hands with the FSSAI. It has been working effectively for the past few years to expedite and ease the approval processes without compromising food safety laws. Not only have the FSSAI been supporting the industry, but they have also improved awareness amongst the general public of food safety and legal metrology laws. They have been actively working alongside industry leaders to set up new food safety benchmarks (biological, chemical, and physical contamination) and legal metrology laws for packaged food products.
The food industry can exceed regulatory requirements by further ramping up its quality management programs, conducting periodic audits and testing, and setting benchmarks higher than those prescribed by the regulatory framework. Also, the industry can support regulatory bodies by training auditors on the latest food manufacturing practices, equipment, and trends.
Packaging South Asia – What are the broader market trends for food processing and packaging in India? We all hear that there has been a boost because of the pandemic but what is the long-term trend. If the pandemic has quickened the long-term trends, which ones, and are there any concrete examples? What are the noteworthy trends spotted by MT?
Post pandemic, we have seen a boost in opportunities linked directly to an increase in consumption. This has also improved brands’ presence across all channels (online and offline) and increased affordability (adoption in rural market is picking up). Meanwhile, the Government of India has prohibited the sale of specific products in bulk, and the general public has become more aware that packaged products should be bought to avoid contamination.
These trends are here to stay, and most FMCG companies have started to focus on these opportunities. Companies are paying more attention to automation to increase productivity and efficiency and reduce human intervention. All these trends will lead to an increase in overall production, improved efficiency, and a reduction in wastage and overfill. In turn, this will call for more online, high-speed, reliable, and repeatable inspection equipment.
As per data released by Nielsen, the FMCG market in India rose by 7.1% during the October-December 2020 period (9% in November and December) and 9.4% in Q1-2021, the third straight quarter of growth, driven by foods, health, hygiene, and rural areas. In the July-September 2020 period, the FMCG market had grown 0.9%. These figures exclude eCommerce. If sales from this channel are added, then the FMCG growth for July-September and October-December stands at 1.6% and 7.3%, respectively.
Other trends include –
- Personal care is also reviving, driven by channels such as eCommerce.
- Hygiene and Immunity building categories are also continuing on a high growth trajectory.
- In 2020, consumption of staples grew by 18%
- Rural markets continue to post double-digit growth, accelerating to 14.2% in Q4 2020 from 10.6% in Q3 2020.
Packaging South Asia – How does the MT organization operate in India? What is its domain knowledge in food safety and packaging safety? How has it been localized over the years? What is its depth in terms of local research, engineering, spare parts, servicing, and how has it worked during the pandemic at a time when food and pharma processing and packaging units are considered essential suppliers.
Sanjoy Mallik – As a technology partner, Mettler-Toledo works with most of the food companies in the world to set up their food safety parameters in terms of foreign body contamination programs. Mettler-Toledo has been present in India for over 20 years and has developed pre-sales consulting, engineering, and post-sales support capabilities.
We have two state-of-the-art competence centers in Mumbai for customer training, product testing, and in-house competence enhancement of our sales and service teams. Our network of well-trained service engineers is located near most of the industrial clusters throughout India. An in-house technical support team backs the engineers. All customer service requests are managed centrally through a modern call management system using SAP. We invest a significant effort in training our customers so that they can deploy our equipment optimally. We also analyze our installed base scientifically and plan our spares inventories to achieve maximum uptime for our customers.
Packaging South Asia – What is Mettler-Toledo doing to be part of Industry 4.0, and how do you help your customers keep up with these opportunities and developments?
Sanjoy Mallik – With an increasing demand for digitalization, Mettler-Toledo has been investing significantly in Industry 4.0. Most of our equipment is Industry 4.0-ready and can be integrated with any of the MES systems. Earlier this year, we released a new major software update (Version 2.4) of ProdX, our product inspection management software. With enhanced security features, digital track and trace, automatic performance testing, and real-time logging of test and compliance data, ProdX delivers full digital track and trace and real-time food safety compliance.
In addition, to enhance and upgrade customer knowledge, Mettler-Toledo offers a wide range of online and offline educational programs, including seminars, webinars, live demos, white papers, and application stories.