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The Rediff Interview/Cadbury MD Bharat Puri
October 16, 2003
For many children in India, 'cadbury' means a chocolate bar. For decades, Cadbury has been synonymous with chocolates in this country though the last decade has seen other brands enter the market and provide variety. Today, Cadbury India Limited finds itself in the eye of a storm after fungus and worms were found in different chocolate bars across Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration sent 10 chocolate bars to laboratories for testing and said it will prosecute Cadbury India under the Food Adulteration Act after they were found infested with worms.
Cadbury India Managing Director Bharat Puri explained his company's side of the story in an email interview with Deputy Managing Editor Amberish K Diwanji.
Consumers have complained that worms have been found inside Cadbury chocolates? How could this have happened?
Cadbury would like to state that it follows stringent quality procedures in India as it does elsewhere in the world. At all Cadbury plants, every manufacturing process is closely monitored by experienced technical personnel and a quality assurance team tests finished goods before their dispatch for sale.
However, Cadbury chocolates reach out to over 650,000 retailers directly and indirectly. In spite of every care being taken at the manufacturing stage, chocolate is a food product that requires specific care and attention in storage. Chocolates are susceptible to infestation if they are stored near grains and cereals or in unhygienic conditions.
What safety measures does Cadbury use to ensure quality control at its factory, and in transporting the chocolates?
At Cadbury India Ltd, we follow the internationally accepted HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) program, which is the most comprehensive food safety system to ensure that our products are free from any physical, chemical and microbiological issues.
The manufacture of chocolates involves a conching process that takes place at high temperatures, making it impossible for any infestation to take place during the process.
Further samples from every batch are kept in the factory both under ambient conditions and also in an air-conditioned room to enable us to revert to these in case subsequent investigation is required at our end
Cadbury has asked the chocolates be stored in a cool and dry place? Are these norms followed? What happens if a shopkeeper does not follow such norms?
We believe that by and large our retailers, with their experience and knowledge, take maximum care in handling and storage. Our commitment to quality does not end at our factory gate. We work closely with our retailer partners, educating them on storage of chocolate to ensure that products reaching you are of the best quality.
Given India's hot and humid climate, can there not be an alternative in terms of storing and packaging?
Given India's climate, chocolates need to be stored in a cool, dry and hygienic place away from grains and cereals. To this end, the Company provides retailers with storage dispensers and visi-coolers to give adequate product protection. Additionally, every Cadbury product label mentions the care instruction: 'Store in a cool, hygienic and dry place.'
Are these visi-coolers and storage dispensers used by the retailers, who to save costs often do not use such coolers?
We believe that by and large retailers follow our operating instructions and adhere to the required storage conditions.
Does Cadbury check whether its retailers are following the norms and does it take action against retailers who do not follow hygienic norms in storing the chocolates? And if so, what kind of action?
Our sales officers and redistributors salesmen during their regular visit to the outlets check and continue to educate the retailers on storage norms.
In the present cases, Cadbury has said that the fungus growth occurred because of the rains. How could this have been avoided?
Chocolate is a food product that requires specific care and attention in storage.
How does Cadbury plan to avoid such mishaps in the future?
We are undertaking a drive in the distribution system. And, as a company that has remained committed to quality for the last 55 years, we are proactively initiating steps to further strengthen the existing packaging.
(A press release from Cadbury India Limited, dated October 15, 2003, said over the next two weeks, over 300 sales people trained for quality control would do a thorough check of the retail outlets across Maharashtra, and later India.)
Coming to Cadbury's plans in India, what are your plans to remain market leader?
We will continue to delight the consumer through excellent and innovative products and continued commitment to quality.
Recently, different chocolates were branded under the Dairy Milk brand? The reason for this singular branding?
This umbrella branding under the Cadbury Dairy Milk looks at leveraging the Dairy Milk brand across the entire range of moulded chocolate.
The per person chocolate consumption in India is among the lowest. As market leader, how do you plan to raise the consumption levels?
We will continue to focus on affordability and value for money, thereby raising the relevance of chocolates in the daily consumption basket in India. Additionally, with our focus on width of distribution we hope to continue to expand the market for chocolates.
One complaint is that many chocolates available in the West are still not available in India. Can we expect them soon?
Our new product launch agenda continuously evaluates the most appropriate formats for the Indian market.
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