September 2020: An oft-repeated maxim — ‘Cleanliness is godliness’ brings out the essence and significance of personal hygiene. More so, tidiness is also an integral part of Indian culture. Initially, people used natural ingredients in the absence of modern personal care products to look attractive. However, scientific advancements have served an array of modern personal care products wherein moms and baby products have carved out its niche share in the market.
Last year, the global baby personal care market size was valued at USD 5.67 billion and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% from 2020 to 2027. The market is anticipated to register a healthy growth rate owing to rising concerns over baby health, increasing awareness among consumers regarding the personal hygiene of babies, and the growth of the organized retail sector.
With the increasing graph of income and standard of life, people demand such personal care products which are natural and healthy. Despite the presence of old established companies like Himalaya, Dabur, Emami and several other Ayurveda companies in this segment, a continuously expanding market is presenting equal growth opportunities to newer companies. Immensely popular new e-Commerce brands, which claim that their moms and baby care products are natural, are live examples. However, the authenticity of the claims responsible for the popularity are still questionable as most of the products lack transparency in labelling and certifications.
Talking about the transparency, the claims of the products the new-age companies are making and their certification, Dr Chandrakant S Pandav, Former HoD, Department of Community Health, AIIMS, New Delhi, Former President Indian Public Health Association, said, “There is a lack of transparency in the claims of the new-age e-Commerce companies as the composition of ingredients in their products contradicts their claims. To safeguard the consumers from getting fleeced and their health interests by the false claims made by these companies, we need stringent regulation and certification-mechanism in place to ensure the authenticity of the products. To this end, govt. must come up with strict guidelines and form an independent body that looks into the authenticity of the claims and certification. This grievance needs an urgent redressal.”
Observing the claims of new-age companies about their moms and baby products, Dr Manish Sharma, Hony. Consultant, Indian Medical Academy for Preventive Health (IMAPH), a premier Medical Advocacy group in the country, said, “Discerning the composition of the moms and babies products of new-age e-Commerce companies reveals that they use marketing gimmick in their claims to entice the customers. If we see the products of one of the visible brands — MamaEarth’s baby products namely — ‘deeply nourishing body wash for babies’, they broadly claim that there are no harmful chemicals and the product is natural. While Potassium Sorbate an ingredient in the product may cause skin irritation in some cases or the other.” [1, 2]
“Possibly, to market their products, increase the customer base, and multiply the sales, the new-age companies have been making such claims of their products to be natural. Despite the chemical ingredients in their products which are not scientifically proven to be harmful, they are claiming to be natural. But how can a product blended with essential chemical ingredients be so? Perhaps, this is happening due to the lack of proper regulation and certification procedures in place”, added Dr Sharma.
Presenting her stance on the claims and the authenticity of the products of the new-age companies, one of the doting mothers, Deepa Singh, said, “I definitely feel such brands are misleading their customers by claiming certification that is from non-accredited agencies. Most of these companies, say for TheMomsCo, are endorsing its product through foreign certification, which is still questionable until the claim is certified by the credible national body. Their whole marketing and the advertising strategy is based on luring customers by claiming to be natural while hiding chemical components under the names that customers are not aware of or don’t check. There should be an independent agency to look into the claims made by such companies and also the regulations to penalize such brands if they mislead consumers.
Ms Sneha, a caring mother said, “There are so many baby products in the market which contain certain ingredients that might be harmful, but the worry is that people generally don’t know about the harm of the product and use it based on the advertisement. The use of baby products is a personal choice. I don’t use talcum powder for my children as talc is not good for the skin of the babies. As children’s skin is very delicate, so we should be very careful while choosing the products. There are chances of rashes on their skin, so the products should carry minimum chemicals in it. Generally, people don’t examine the authenticity of the product or go through the labels, but many times products carry such ingredients which may be harmful to your baby’s skin. So, every consumer needs to examine whether these proclaimed natural products are natural or not before buying.”
The market is rife with such baby products of emerging e-Commerce companies, which claim their products are natural. In the product market, every company has the right to grow, but making false claims is not desirable. The purpose of advertisement, packaging and labelling is to increase consumer’s awareness of a product and provide information so that they can make informed choices. However, mislabelling for any ulterior motive must be avoided.
Moreover, customers also need to be an informed buyer. So, it should be our call to have a multidimensional scan of the products we choose before buying without relying on advertisements and labelling. The ensuing discrepancies are eventually tendering harm to us – the customers.