Rushikesh Aravkar
Rushikesh is Mintel's Food & Drink Analyst based in Mumbai. He is responsible for providing insights and fresh analysis on India's food and beverage market.

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate that owns Tata Salt, recently faced social media outrage after an activist, citing a report by American West Analytical Laboratories, said that the processed iodised salt sold in India allegedly contains alarming levels of poisonous and carcinogenic components like potassium ferrocyanide (PFC).

Since then, the brand has been battling to dispel a misinformation campaign about the safety of its biggest processed iodised salt brand. Tata Salt shared credible reports from regulatory bodies across the world on permitted levels of PFC on its website and social media handles to dispel the misinformation, calling it ‘fake news’.

In another instance, when Dabur discovered a malicious video about Real juice pack making rounds on social media. In light of this Dabur created a video emphasising the quality standards followed by them and debunk the misrepresentation of facts in the malicious video.


Source: linkedin.com

In India, the fake news phenomenon was initially restricted to the spectrum of politics. However, because of increasing internet penetration and accessibility to social media, this is now spreading into the consumer landscape, often impacting product sales and brand equity.

Moreover, misinformation, as in the case of Tata Salt, can also create a public scare around health and food safety. While building a brand takes an enormous amount of time, money and effort⁠, fake news has the potential to negate a brand’s value in no time.

Demystifying the truth

Mintel Trend ‘On Display’ highlights how, in this digital age, everyone is on display. People and brands have become more aware that they have a digital persona to nurture and grow as much as they have a physical self. This has created a growing tension where everyone is fighting for attention and nobody is safe from scrutiny and backlash.

Brands globally are taking steps to demystify the phenomenon of fake news. Google, for example, has launched a media literacy programme to teach kids about false content and fake news. Meanwhile, Alibaba has launched an AI-powered algorithm that can detect online fake news with an 81% accuracy rate.

What we think

The battle against fake news is quickly gathering steam. Social media portals are actively curbing the spread of fake news on their platforms, while a new breed of digital start-ups such as Alt News, Boom Live and SM Hoax Slayer, among others, have taken it upon themselves to debunk misinformation with rigorous fact-checking.

It is becoming pertinent for companies to keep tabs on social media conversations and be vigilant about the narrative that surrounds their brands on a real-time basis.

A quick, proactive and well thought out response is often the first thing to do for brands to safeguard their interests when fake news breaks out. For this, companies will invest in reputation management strategies that operate above and beyond corporate communication and public relations.