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Unbox Health Launches Rating Platform For Packaged Foods & Supplements

Bangalore-based Unbox Health, founded by Arjun Anjaria in April 2024, uses unbiased third-party lab testing to rate products in the market amidst recent packaged foods controversies.

By Bilal Khan
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Unbox Health Co-founders

Unbox Health Team

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The team at Unbox Health is pursuing an audacious goal of bringing more trust and credibility to the packaged foods industry. The Bangalore-based startup recently launched the country’s first rating platform dedicated to packaged foods and health supplements.

Unbox Health partners with top food labs in the country -- all  NABL-accredited and FSSAI-certified – to rigorously test products in the market. The startup then uses these lab test findings to rate products based on label accuracy, toxicity limits and nutritional guidelines.

“Our core mission at Unbox is to help everyday consumers make informed decisions while enabling high-quality ethical brands to build credibility. Think CRISIL or S&P for packaged foods and health supplements," said Arjun Anjaria, founder of the recently launched startup, during his conversation with Startup Pedia.

Addressing the Trust Deficit:

The packaged foods and health supplements sector in India today is plagued by significant trust issues. Consumers are becoming increasingly sceptical about the authenticity and safety of products in the market. With the rise of social media personalities like Foodpharmer (Revant Himatsingka) and TheLiverDoc (Dr Cyriac Abby Philips) using their platform to shed light on these issues, awareness levels among consumers have never been higher. Recent high-profile controversies, such as those involving household names like Bournvita, MDH and others have further exacerbated these concerns.

“So many of the choices we make in our daily lives today are based on evidence and data. And yet, when it comes to choosing packaged foods and health supplements, even in this age of great scientific progress, we are forced to make consumption choices based on blind faith and marketing influence. There has to be a better way,” Arjun passionately explained.

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Lab Testing Methodology:

Over the last several months, the team at Unbox Health has developed a robust methodology for rating products. Their methodology is based exclusively on unbiased lab testing data, leaving no room for subjective opinions or expert reviews. After extensive trials and evaluating dozens of food labs across the country, the platform now partners with a select few European-owned labs that meet their standards for testing quality.

The entire sourcing, testing and rating process is designed to ensure maximum transparency and autonomy. When procuring products, Unbox Health always sources the products directly from the market without any involvement from the brand or manufacturer. Each product sample is then sent out to multiple labs to guarantee high levels of accuracy. This meticulous approach ensures that the ratings are robust and based on reliable data. All lab reports as well as documentation about Unbox Health’s process are made publicly available on the platform.

"Transparency is at the core of everything we do. We believe the only way to earn trust and build authority in this space is to be unconditionally transparent about our work," Arjun explained while speaking to Startup Pedia. 

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Product Rating Criteria:

Products are rated based on three scoring criteria:

1. Label Accuracy Score: This helps consumers determine if a product contains what it claims. It measures how accurately the product’s label reflects its actual contents.

2. Non-Toxicity Score: This helps consumers determine if a product is safe for consumption. It measures the degree to which a product passes toxicity limit checks in lab tests for common toxins such as heavy metals, aflatoxins, pesticides, fertilizer residues, etc.

3. Nutritional Profile Score: This helps consumers determine if a product can be considered nutritionally “healthy”. It measures the macronutrient composition of a product in the context of nutritional guidelines defined by ICMR and WHO.

"These three scores are then combined to generate a final Unbox Health rating of a product, ranging from D to A+. Consumers can use this simple letter-grade rating to assess the product's overall quality and make an informed decision. All lab reports and underlying data are also publicly accessible on the platform for anyone who may want to dig deeper," said Arjun, a former engineer turned startup founder.

 

“Most consumers today see the FSSAI logo on a product and assume that this implies a certification of quality. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The FSSAI logo on a product merely indicates that the brand or manufacturer is licensed by FSSAI to operate, not that the product meets standards for high-quality. Unbox Health's ratings provide a much-needed layer of validation, ensuring consumers can make smarter choices," Arjun emphasized.

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How It All Started For Unbox Health:

Last summer, Arjun decided to start researching some of the underlying trust issues that affect the packaged foods and health supplements industry. Driven by his commitment to health and nutrition, and a general sense of scepticism, he began sending samples of commonly consumed products to local food labs in Bangalore. What he found was deeply concerning. Top-ranking products, including top-ranking bestsellers on platforms like Amazon and Flipkart, failed miserably in these lab tests.

During the conversation with Startup Pedia, Arjun shared, "A best-selling protein supplement claiming to contain more than 75% protein was found to have only 20% in lab tests. Another top-ranked vitamin product was found to contain higher than legal limits of toxic metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. These were not isolated findings; a majority of the top-selling products that we initially tested - all with thousands of positive reviews online - did not meet basic FSSAI standards."

Intrigued by these findings, Arjun made further efforts to test more products and explore possible solutions to this problem. It soon became obvious that there was a pressing need for a transparent and unbiased rating platform in this space.

Post-Launch Response & Expansion Plans:

After several months of exploration and R&D, the first version of the platform went live in April 2024. The startup has already launched approximately ten categories on the platform, with new categories being introduced each month to expand its offerings. Categories range from packaged foods such as snack bars, breakfast cereals and peanut butter, to health supplements like vitamins, minerals, omega-3 supplements and more. According to the team, the response so far has been extremely positive.

"The adoption rates and early feedback from our users has been very encouraging. Similarly, on the brand side, several brands have organically reached out to have their products rated after hearing about our offering, including some prominent industry names," said Arjun during the conversation with Startup Pedia. 

The team is very clear about the approach they are taking.

“We do not think of ourselves as an activist company that is out to expose brands. We are deliberately taking a pro-ecosystem, solution-minded approach here. Our long-term goal is simple: to help bring down the percentage of substandard products being consumed in the market,” Arjun clarified.

The startup has big ambitions for the future. For now, the team plans to focus on the packaged foods and health supplements market. However, they intend to enter adjacent categories like skincare, personal care and cosmetics in 2025.

With consumption levels on the rise and the market for packaged foods and health supplements growing so rapidly, the team is bullish about their prospects. 

“Today's increased awareness levels coupled with rising consumption trends presents the perfect opportunity for us. I truly believe that there is no better time for us to be building Unbox Health,” said the founder.