Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Packaging designers seem to be working over time in their "design" to impress the consumer through what ever means possible. The latest ploy is to use over sized bags for packing which in conjunction with nitrogen filling gives a bloated appearance and consumers are attracted to buy these jumbo packs without sparing any time to read the information on the labels. Legally no one can argue that such practices are not right but ethically it cannot be condoned easily. It is unfortunate that the Weights and Measures Act has done away with the provision in force that restricts the pack size to a particular range, making it easy for the consumer to recognize them. To day the industry can market any pack size and it is common to see an enormous range of pack sizes with no uniformity or standard weights that can be remembered by the consumer.

One can argue that the existing labeling regulations compel the industry to declare the contents either in weights or volume or in numbers in some cases. Unfortunately there is no compulsion to declare the price on a uniform unit weight basis thus giving considerable scope for playing around with the figures. Thus one can get the same product manufactured by different manufacturers apparently for the same price but containing different quantities. It is not fair to leave such a situation where alert consumers are left to fend for themselves to calculate the prices on per unit weight basis and such calculations become complex to do mentally as most the declared weights are not easily multipliable or divisible. Probably a time may come when house wives going to the market will have to carry a calculator to make the purchase decision!

This is not a phenomenon confined to India only. In some of the developed countries it is jokingly being said that,"even after being processed, breaded and frozen, fish continue to enjoy the feeling of the open ocean" because of the big size of the package containing ample air space! In a recent survey in a western country it was found that there were many products that filled as little as half their packages, a practice that, even given accurately listed weights, it may look deceptive for any discerning consumer.

There was a time not long ago when industry was striving hard to reduce the packaging cost by optimizing the design and using less of the packaging as far as possible without compromising on the functionality or the integrity of the package. Computer aided designs were once popular for evolving optimum shape of bottles and boxes that can be made using least quantity of raw materials. The unbearable taxation burden, prevailing then, which increased the proportion of cost of packaging in the final product price, necessitated such practices. The progressive reduction in taxes and duties on raw as well as finished products of the packaging industry has reduced the packaging cost from a high of 35-50% of the product cost to less than 10% to day which probably might have provided the incentive for the "bloated packs" phenomenon being seen widely in the food processing industry in the country. It is time the industry is made to declare also the prices per unit weight along with the pack price for the benefit of the consumers.

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