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Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are, so the French say. But do we know what we eat?

Recent content by brands such as The Whole Truth and MTR attempts to redefine existing codes of packaged food positioning by focusing on a modern penchant for information as well as variety, excitement and the new.

Knowledge is Power: Videos by The Whole Truth Foods

A series of branded content videos by The Whole Truth Foods aims to demystify the jargon that dominates the packaged food industry. In various videos that revolve around teaching one to read an ingredient list wisely or that compare different types of sugars, the content by The Whole Truth seeks to enlighten consumers on the real specifics of packaged food.

The Whole Truth videos are made in a conversational tone featuring the founder and CEO, Shashank Mehta in the role of an honest educator. Mehta seems to be championing the cause of good health that is rooted in truth. He usually starts with a line of questioning centred around the fact that the truth might not be the whole truth, after all.

The ‘How To Read Ingredient List’ video begins by sprinkling mind-boggling terms such as maltodextrin, INS 150a, e235, etc., on the screen. The incomprehension that arises as a result of the first step establishes the need for an explanation and hence the video. It provides knowledge about food and nutrition that health-conscious Indians are hungry for.

The videos are presented as lessons where consumers can empower themselves in order to make an informed choice. Mehta often proceeds with the decoding process with the words, “today, we’ll learn!”

Rules and regulations by bodies such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that are meant for all food manufacturers are discussed in the video. Awareness of the regulations automatically drives a consumer in the direction of a better choice. They can determine or differentiate between various brands using the FSSAI rules as a barometer.

The Whole Truth’s videos seek to uncover the meaning of information that according to them is cleverly hidden behind ‘unrealistic product shots’ on the front of the pack. They break down rather luxurious shots of models eating chocolates or juice that claims to be natural. An effective comparison is drawn by keeping a glass of cola right next to a glass of orange juice since the sugar content in both of them is similar even if it is termed differently.

Packaged food, in the Whole Truth’s telling, is here to stay. Packaged food is not an apologetic form of traditional food. Consumers know that there are many food products available only in packaged form, especially foods that are not native to India, e.g., chocolates, biscuits, bread, energy bars, granola, pasta sauce, pizzas—the list is long. Having adopted these foods into their plate and their way of life, consumers are naturally resistant to going back to the food habits of the 1940s and 1950s, the food that their great grandparents ate every day. Yet, how to eat healthily? It is into this consumer confusion that this brand uses nutrition education videos to help consumers make healthy choices. Under the banner of ‘honesty’ and ‘truth’ that the consumer can rely on — WhatsApp forwards and helpful misinformation in the world of social media.

Modernity in Tradition: MTR’s Idli Cookbook

Earlier this year on World Idli Day, MTR Foods launched their Wow Idli Cookbook. MTR provides around 50 recipes for Idli in their hundred-page cookbook that is easily accessible on the internet. Consumers can also watch recipe videos that have been shot by an assortment of food influencers, bloggers, and chefs such as Smitha Kallurya, Hebbars Kitchen, Whisk Affair, et al.

With their cookbook, MTR attempts to introduce an element of variety, surprise and fun in the preparation of Idli. The recipes in the book are categorised into three sections: Southern Surprise, Fusion Favourite, and Daily Delight. So, while it occupies the known and comfortable niche of being an everyday food brand, MTR also aims high by suggesting recipes for special occasions.

The Idli Cookbook takes familiar food and weaves experimental recipes around it. It balances the nostalgic values enshrined within an Idli with modern values that are reflected in recipes such as Mexican Oats Idli Nachos/Khakra! MTR uses the power of tradition, the seeking of good health and mixes it with the ethos of a global exchange of food ideas.

#MTRWorldIdliDay | Mexican Oats Idli Nachos/Khakra by Smitha Kallurya

By designing their cookbook around Idli, MTR is able to take into account consumers that are health conscious as Idli is considered to be a healthy food choice. Hence, they embody the belief that traditional food is also healthy food. The brand thus assists its consumers to stay rooted in tradition while being modern at the same time.

Information vs Tradition

With the boom in information thanks to the internet, everything that a consumer possibly wants to know about their food is just a click away. But are we drowning in information while starving for knowledge?

Content by The Whole Truth simplifies the excess of information into meaningful knowledge. It can present consumers with a relevant debate of healthy packaged food versus unhealthy packaged food. It wholly appeals to those modern consumerist values that are not seeking an anchoring in tradition, when it comes to food.

On the other hand, MTR’s cookbook also provides knowledge. They take into account convenience, taste, and fusion food practices. Their focus is on packaged food but that focus derives from a blend of emotion and tradition too.

The Whole Truth departs from the familiar food culture. MTR tries to re-shape it while also holding onto it.

Wrapping Up

A good brand strategy for modern packaged food brands lies in blending information and tradition. Packaged food brands that anchor themselves in food culture based simply on emotion, tradition, heritage and the power of nostalgia (Maa ke haath ka khana, Daadima ke achaar, etc.) can certainly benefit from an element of information. Similarly, the already established power of emotion and heritage in food campaigns can be harnessed by those who are focused entirely on decoding information. What MTR and The Whole Truth have shown is that branded content can help modern packaged food brands embrace their modernity wholeheartedly and make it their point of distinctiveness vis-a-vis all the other food brands out there.