LabelBlind - India's First Food Rating System to Guide You Choose Packaged Food Based on Nutritional Value

A growing number of Indian consumers now prefer to go for healthy options when it comes to buying food items. A survey by IPSOS, a Global Leader in Market Research, found that 91% of Indians opt for healthier alternatives when it comes to snacking. Again, Indian Health Food Market which is currently 10% of the total Food Market is also growing at a rate of 35%. However, despite all this growing concern for eating healthy, choosing a healthy food items that has high nutrition is not easy. While the nutritional labels on the food packets are meant to reveal the nutritional value of the food and thus the health benefits of that particular food product, comprehending the nutritional labels is not a simple task either.

Technical information declared on food labels stating complex ingredients, nutrition facts, and daily recommended values, serving sizes, allergens and more leave consumers overwhelmed. This leads them to make uninformed and unsafe choices that often serve contrary to their desire for choosing food that promotes good health and well-being. As a Nutrition Science and Food Label Expert Rashida Vapiwala was well aware of this problem that Indian consumers has been facing, and she came up with a solution for the same with her startup LabelBlind- India's 1st Food Rating System. LabelBlind lists over 8000 food products across 120 categories and rates them on a scale of of 1-5 based on key nutritional parameters to help you make informed decisions when it comes to buying packaged food items. We interviewed LabelBlind founder Rashida Vapiwala to know about the services and operations of the startup.

LabelBlind Highlights

Startup Name LabelBlind
Headquarter Mumbai
Founder Rashida Vapiwala
Sector HealthTech
Founded 2018
Parent Organization The Nutrition Alchemy
Website labelblind.com/

About LabelBlind
LabelBlind - Founder & Team
The Idea Behind Starting LabelBlind
LabelBlind - Name & Logo
LabelBlind - Business Model
LabelBlind - Marketing Strategies
LabelBlind - Challenges
LabelBlind - Growth & Future Plans

About LabelBlind

LabelBlind is a nutri-tech platform and is driven by the purpose of creating Nutrition Literacy by democratizing the principles of Nutrition Science. The platform reviews and rates food products to guide consumers to make smart food choices that support good health and well being. The rating is based on a proprietary nutrition assessment tool that takes into consideration 43 vital nutrition parameters and is guided by the principles laid down by FSSAI, USFDA and WHO. LabelBlind has 8000 products listed, across 120 categories. Further, LabelBlind customizes product recommendations based on user health profiles. The digital platform is free-to-use for consumers and collaborates with the Food Regulator and Food Businesses to design nutrition solutions to impact food consumption habits. Speaking about LabelBlind's vision, Rasheda Vapiwala says,

"We believe that chronic diseases are not to be blamed on genetics alone; but are a result of poor food choices that must be corrected through nutrition literacy. At our company, The Nutrition Alchemy (Parent Company  of LabelBlind), we work towards a day where such diseases are wiped off the face of the planet. We are inspired by the vision of a healthier India, where citizens are empowered to make informed and mindful choices of what they eat, to keep themselves emotionally and physically healthy, with less dependence on curative interventions."

LabelBlind - Founder & Team

LabelBlind founder Rashida Vapiwala is an expert nutritionist. She has a vast experience of working in areas like Health Awareness, Food & Nutrition, Health Promotion Activities (Engagements), Food Labeling Solutions and Nutrition Profiling Of Food Products

LabelBlind Founder, Rashida Vapiwala
LabelBlind Founder, Rashida Vapiwala

Rashida is a PhD scholar with a Master’s Degree in Food and Nutrition from The University of Mumbai. She is currently researching on "the relationship consumers have with food products and brands". She networks with Food Practitioners from across the world to practice learning from scientific discoveries. Rashida was Awarded the Junior Research Fellowship by the University Grants Commission, India and the Dr K.U.Naram award for a distinguished performance in academics at post-graduate level.

Rashida has been felicitated with respectable certifications, like

  1. Micronutrient and Food Fortification Training Program – Project Healthy Children (PHC) & Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), USA.
  2. Food Safety Supervisor -  Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
  3. Nutrition & Chronic Disease Research Methods - Centre for Chronic Disease Control & PHFI.
  4. Nutrigenomic Counsellor - DNALife, South Africa and Genombio Technologies pvt ltd., Pune.
  5. Nutrition for Exercise and Fitness - University of Mumbai.
  6. Nutrition Research Methods - St. John’s Research Institute, Bangalore, India in collaboration with Harvard University, USA and Tufts University, USA.

LabelBlind team comprises professionals from the fields of Nutrition, Consumer Marketing and Developers.

The Idea Behind Starting LabelBlind

An experienced nutritionist Rashida, could see that there are many loopholes that requires attention when it comes to nutrition in India. Rashida and her team did much research on the nutritional awareness and requirements of the Indian population to get the required inputs to develop LabelBlind.

Initially, 100 consumers were contacted in the city to ask them about comprehension of food labels and the importance of the information in making smart food choices. Results were eye-opening:

  • 58% find nutrition labels complex
  • 84% agree that nutrition labels influence choice of food products
  • 95% believe simplifying nutrition labels will be valuable to making good choices

Other compelling considerations that the team came across includes-

  • India’s World Health Ranking - 120 (out of 169 countries) - Bloomberg Ranking
  • 43% have a skewed BMI
  • 30% have a Diabetes risk
  • 30% have a Hypertensive risk
  • Almost half of daily calories (47%) are derived from carbohydrates with the numbers going as high as 70% in rural areas. Just 7% of daily calories coming from Protein as compared to the recommended 29%
  • The average consumption of calories from fruits is less than 40% of what EAT-Lancet recommends.
  • In general, Indians consume more of the unhealthier saturated fats like palm oil. The consumption of vanaspati (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil*) is known to have risen by 51% between 1993 and 94 and 2011–12.
  • 30% of the diet of rich urban people consists of processed foods. An average Indian household consumes more calories from processed foods than fruits.
  • Overall, dietary risks were responsible for 22% of all deaths and disabilities amongst adults.

The above data clearly shows that the majority of the Indians have one or the other health hazard or many are at risk to develop ailments owing to wrong eating habits. Rashida knew that a huge difference can be made by helping and guiding the Indians to buy the right kind of packaged food items, that are healthy and have high nutritional value, which made her start 'LabelBlind' as a platform to simplify the comprehension of nutritional values of food for consumers.

The product has had an extended test-run of over a year and has been validated for feedback from 30 leading food companies, nutritionists and the regulator itself. The response has been encouraging, translating into strong word of mouth for the company, and keen interest of stakeholders in the data intelligence and its application to industry practices and regulation policies.

The company takes pride in its association with FSSAI on strategic areas of food regulation and strengthening the ecosystem of food regulation. It is a validation of the solution and its robust processes of nutrition assessment.

Most of the consumers are almost like blind when it comes to reading the nutritional labels on food packets, as they cannot comprehend the nutritional labels properly. The name 'LabelBlind' is derived from this very problem faced by the consumers. As Rashida Says about the idea behind the name,  

"Food Labels on product packs are blind spots for consumers. We equate it to buying products being blindfolded, little knowing about product ingredients and their role in our bodies. The branding highlights this consumer pain point. It is time for the consumer to address the blind spot and decipher nutrition labels, thus taking the blindfold off their eyes in a manner of metaphorical reference."
LabelBlind Logo
LabelBlind Logo

LabelBlind - Business Model

The data intelligence powering the website has enabled LabelBlind to pivot into multiple business models. While LabelBlind helps the consumers in assessing the nutritional values in food packets, Businesses like Retail Banking Firms, consumer health brands and  health insurance companies can tie up with LabelBlind to ensure well-being of their customers by offering them to an option to stay healthy by making good food choices.  

Food Business Operators (FBOs) can use data and insights by LabelBlind  to develop new products based on nutritional value and customer preferences. FBOs can also promote their products through the LabelBlind platform.

LabelBlind® collaborates with businesses in the space of CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods), food retail, health and life insurance, retail banking and wellness companies to offer -

  1. Nutrition assessment of products to build compelling product strategies
  2. Business consultancy in NPD (New Product Development) and Customized Nutrition Report
  3. Consumer engagement and lead generation
  4. Corporate food rating and employee nutrition profiling

Besides, the startup seeks to partner with Government agencies an associations in the food and nutrition space in their consumer outreach programs through online and offline channels. Presently LabelBlind is a project partner with FSSAI on projects of critical importance to the food industry.

The Nutrition Alchemy, LabelBlind's parent organization also offers collaboration opportunities for nutritionists, bloggers, food marketing freelancers, radio jockeys and journalists to help them spread awareness about nutrition among their customers and audience.

Besides, The Nutrition Alchemy (TNA) offers a flagship TNA Nutrition23 Masterclass. Companies can register for this course to educate their employees on nutrition.

LabelBlind - Marketing Strategies

LabelBlind is at its early stage of introduction, building word of mouth and networks of collaboration. Tata AIA and FSSAI are amongst its first set of premium clients.

The company relies on the personal branding of its founder, credibility of its networks, clients and media to drive the image and awareness for the brand.

LabelBlind - Challenges

There were 2 big challenges on the way for the LabelBlind team while building LabelBlind - India’s 1st Food Rating System -

Building a Food Database was a challenging task for the team. They initiated the website development with packaged foods, moving into staples, edible oil and protein supplements. LabelBlind team is also building a database of Fresh Foods recipes representing cultural aspects of food and nutrition habits.. LabelBlind has built its database from scratch, with the help of its team of nutritionists and dietitians. Each label is personally scrutinized and included in the database. Today, LabelBlind has 8000 products listed, across 120 food categories.

Again, Building a scientific, credible Food Rating System is also a tough task.  LabelBlind today has a great review system, its major USPs being-

  • Reviewing and rating of food products based on a proprietary nutrition assessment model that evaluates food products on 14 vital nutrition parameters.
  • The assessment model is guided by nutrition principles laid down by FSSAI, WHO, ICMR and USFDA.
  • LabelBlind team includes leading Nutrition Experts in the field to bring Nutrition Solutions that are at the cutting edge of Research.
  • LabelBlind has covered the essential skills required for the business - understanding of nutrition science, food regulatory affairs, consumer understanding and  digital technology.

LabelBlind - Growth & Future Plans

LabelBlind is working with premium clients like Tata AIA and FSSAI. Currently bootstrapped, the company is in active discussions with investors to scale the business model. With new new product ratings getting constantly updated to the platform, LabelBlind can be a real help for the consumers.

More and more Indians are moving towards a healthy lifestyle. Also there high possibility that Covid19 will bring permanent changes in consumption habits.Thus in the current situation Startups like LabelBlind can be a total game changer in the health and nutrition scenario of India.

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About Chayanika Goswami

  • Assam
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