NEW DELHI: Following the ban on Maggi instant noodles, the entire category has taken a hit with sales reported to be down 90% month-on-month, and across India food companies are reassessing their approach to safety and protecting brand image.

An official from industry body ASSOCHAM estimated that sales of instant noodles had dropped from around Rs 350 crore per month to just Rs 30 crore. "There is a fear psychosis among consumers," he told the Business Standard.

The same official reported an "increased focus" on packaged foods companies by food safety regulators.

And businesses are responding accordingly. "We are testing and re-testing raw material and ingredients through various external labs over and above what is mandatory by the regulators," Varun Berry, managing director at biscuit maker Britannia, told the Economic Times.

Such an approach leaves the brand well prepared to deal with any questions that might be thrown at it by regulators, consumers or activists.

Ever alert to issues around brand image and reputation, soft drinks giant Coca-Cola uses software to track its brand names in images and text on social media, while a dedicated team monitors consumer concerns on a daily basis.

Fast food chain McDonald's also tracks social media conversation on a real-time basis with a view to rapidly addressing customer concerns before they "translate into myths and do rounds online or on mobile chatting apps", according to Kedar Teny, director/marketing & digital, McDonald's India – West & South.

That means that in addition to directly engaging with consumers via social media "we broadcast stories, news, facts, trivia, menu, etc. to take our audience behind the scenes; and we counter wrong stories and hoax by running counter communication online."

Pizza brand Domino's has stumbled on a less technical but equally effective solution grounded in its social media activity. 

"On many occasions, even before we respond to any unpleasant experience of a customer on social media, our fans and followers intervene to defend the brand with their positive experiences," said Harneet Rajpal, svp/marketing.

Data sourced from Business Standard, Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff