There’s a thin line between marketing and lying, says food influencer Revant Himatsingka

In an interview with, Revant Himatsingka, also known as 'Food Pharmer', exposed tactics used by brands to deceive customers through misleading packaging, highlighted the importance of government interventions in health research reports by brands and emphasised the need for clearer and more understandable labelling.

Vishesh Sharma
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New Delhi: Consumers are increasingly finding themselves duped by deceptive brand packaging. One common trick is the use of exaggerated portion sizes or vibrant images of ingredients, which give the impression that the product is more generous or healthier than it is. Another is the clever use of colours and fonts that mimic those of more reputable brands, leading to confusion and mistaken purchases. This deception not only results in consumers feeling cheated but also erodes trust in brands and the marketplace at large.  

In an exclusive interview with, social media sensation Revant Himatsingka, also known as ‘FoodPharmer,’ discussed the issue of brands using deceptive packaging to attract customers. "It's a very thin line between marketing and lying. I think using green packaging to signal that a product is nature-oriented is fine.

However, it becomes lying when you label yourself as an ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) and then trademark the word ORS," said Himatsingka. 

He was speaking at Farmley’s Healthy Snacking Summit held last week in Delhi, where the brand released the Healthy Snacking Report 2024 at its first Indian Healthy Snacking Summit held in the National Capital.  

As the demand for honesty in marketing grows, it becomes imperative for regulatory bodies to crack down on such practices, ensuring that packaging accurately reflects the product, thus safeguarding consumer interests and maintaining trust in the market. 

Most F&B brands in India target a mass market characterised by lower purchasing power, making it challenging to sustainably deliver high-quality products at affordable prices. This economic reality often forces brands to compromise on product quality or raise prices, impacting consumer affordability and brand profitability alike. 

Expanding on his point, Himatsingka stated, "I believe there's a segment of the population with price sensitivity where purchasing a premium product at those price points isn't feasible. It's a challenge, and unfortunately, India remains a relatively economically constrained country."

Speaking about the disparity in food choices, India's middle class faces difficulty evaluating options—healthier choices are often prohibitively expensive, while lower-priced options may compromise on quality. Himatsingka elaborated, "Sometimes, the only ones getting truly clean food are either billionaires or farmers. Farmers obtain it directly from their farms, while billionaires often have private farms. There's a gap for the middle class." 

The flag bearer of the 'Label Padhega India' movement, led by Himatsingka, aims to raise awareness about reading food labels. However, these labels often contain complex jargon and scientific names of preservatives unfamiliar to the average consumer. 

When asked about 'Label padhega India par label samjhega kaise India,' implying that even if Indians start paying closer attention to food labels, how will the majority of Indians understand them given the low literacy levels in India? 

Himantsingka offered an insightful perspective, stating, "Even in prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs, there's a lack of awareness about health. My focus for the next five years will be on health literacy. I've initiated Label Seekhega India to educate people on reading food labels and understanding which ingredients and additives are beneficial or harmful. There's a misconception about artificial sweeteners, for instance, that all are bad. I aim to clarify such misconceptions and promote better health literacy among the public." 

For the record, most recently, the food regulator FSSAI approved changes in nutritional information labelling on packaged food items, proposing that total salt, sugar, and saturated fat should be displayed in bold letters as well as bigger font sizes. The food regulator has asked food business operators to immediately remove claims of 100% fruit juices in advertisements as well as labels on packaged products. 

FSSAI will also introduce stricter regulations following a study that found many products on store shelves, in gyms, and on e-commerce platforms have questionable health claims and inaccurate nutritional information. 

Health experts have frequently highlighted cases where unhealthy brands commission health reports tailored to their products, raising concerns about potential tampering with results. Himatsingka emphasised the need for government intervention in overseeing such research reports. 

He expressed, "There should be some level of government intervention in food research. There's a growing concern about research being funded by companies. However, I'm quite scientific in approach, so I tend to trust research over anecdotes, lacking a better alternative. The crucial point now is to ensure that research isn't sponsored by companies. Government action on this front would be decisive." 

In conclusion, Himantsingka advised F&B brands to cultivate a compelling brand narrative through consumer education. "Don't just focus on selling. Many companies make the mistake of only pushing sales. I've seen brands in unrelated categories educate consumers on topics like selecting the best cooking oil, despite not being in that segment themselves. Consistency in your brand story is key. Some companies excel in one product but falter with others, which undermines overall trust with consumers."