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From 2 Cr Salary to 2 Million Followers: How ‘FoodPharmer’ Started A Food Revolution in India

Revant Himatsingka, popularly known as the ‘Foodpharmer’ is a certified health coach on a mission to improve health literacy in India by educating people on the importance of reading food labels. His efforts have garnered over two million followers on social media.

From 2 Cr Salary to 2 Million Followers: How ‘FoodPharmer’ Started A Food Revolution in India

When we grab a food item at the grocery store, our instinct is often to check the expiry date. But do we also spare just a couple more minutes to scan the ingredient list? These extra moments could be crucial, shaping our understanding of the food we’re putting into our bodies.

Packaged food has become integral to our lives, whether we like it or not. Therefore, making conscious decisions to opt for packaged foods that won’t pose additional risks is essential. It’s a small step, but it can have a significant impact on our health and well-being.

Recent reports have emphasised the critical importance of carefully reading food labels. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released dietary guidelines for Indians on May 8, cautioning that the information provided on packaged food labels can often be misleading. “Health claims on packaged food are designed to catch the consumer’s attention and convince them that the product is healthy. Always read food label information to know about the contents inside the pack,” the guidelines state.

Don’t be fooled by labels like ‘healthy’ and ‘no sugar added’. One man who has been trying to decode these food labels and teach Indians how to read them is Revant Himatsingka aka ‘foodpharmer’ on Instagram.

For the past year, this 32-year-old has been leading the charge in promoting health literacy and raising awareness about the importance of reading food labels before making purchases. Through his Instagram page, he has gathered a following of over 2.2 million people.

Having left behind a lucrative Rs 2 crore job on Wall Street, this certified health coach is on a mission to spark a “health revolution” in the country.

“Indians are educated but not health literate. I’m therefore focusing on health literacy, with my major target being children. You should develop healthy habits in children from day one and keep them away from junk to reduce the likelihood of developing health issues later,” shares Revant.

Holding large FMCG conglomerates accountable

Growing up in a 90s Kolkata, Revant had a regular childhood, which included biscuits, packaged foods, and drinks like Bournvita. The young boy was then blissfully unaware of the harmful effects of the food he consumed, like millions of Indians.

Revant wants Indians to learn the importance of reading food labels
Revant wants Indians to learn the importance of reading food labels.

He slowly learnt the importance of nutrition over the second decade of his life, which he spent largely in the US. Revant moved to New York for his undergraduate degree in finance and management in 2011. It was also the time that he started taking an interest in food and nutrition, which eventually got cemented with a health coach certification in 2015.

He also started reading food labels carefully during his grocery store runs. “I wanted to eat healthy and started paying more attention to the ingredient list. I soon realised that most companies are saying something on the front of the pack, while the back states a different story. I slowly learnt about the ingredients like the emulsifiers, colours, etc,” he adds.

He was angered when he realised that while the company states that the product is natural, organic, and very good for you, the truth is far from it. This led to intense research on the topic of nutrition and food labels over the past decade of his life.

“I had an interest in creating social impact and looked at various avenues where I could provide help. I realised that health is one of the most important pillars of life, and what we eat directly impacts it. Therefore, I decided to focus on solving this problem in a structured manner,” Revant tells The Better India.

Revant quit a job on Wall Street to educate people about nutrition
Revant quit a job on Wall Street to educate people about nutrition.

In fact, his desire to create impact first materialised as a self-book called Selfienomics in 2016, which interestingly had information on reading food labels! While he had realised the importance of this topic, it was seven years later that he decided to make it the mission of his life.

Before his ‘Bournvita’ video that led to him becoming a bonafide viral sensation on the internet in April 2023, Revant worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. His stint at the management consulting firm, in many ways, laid the groundwork for his content today. “As a consultant, I often worked on projects in the grocery space, so I know first-hand about the false marketing that takes place,” he adds.

Working in consulting meant solving problems in a structured manner. Revant decided to use this skill to help solve the larger issue — reading and understanding food labels. With this plan in place, he quit his job and returned to India, much to the chagrin of his family.

But he was clear about his mission and took on the baton of teaching Indians what he calls “the most important life skill”. His problem lies with packaged food that masquerades as healthy.

In April 2023, he kicked off his stint as ‘Foodpharmer’ with a video about Bournvita, manufactured by Mondelez. The video highlighted the excessive amount of sugar in the drink, yet calling itself ‘healthy’, adding that it could cause diabetes. The video went viral across social media platforms, leading to legal trouble for the former consultant.

Mondelez sent him a legal notice asking him to take down the video. Left with no choice, Revant took it down and issued a statement. However, he had achieved what he set out to do — create awareness among Indians.

Stay away from sugary drinks 

Despite the legal notice, Cadbury reduced the quantity of added sugar in Bournvita by 14.4 percent in December 2023, validating the content creator’s efforts. The Central Government also directed e-commerce firms to remove Bournvita and other such drinks from the health drinks category.

Another major product that reduced its sugar content by 22 percent was ‘Maggi rich tomato ketchup’. Revant made a video highlighting the fact that the product had more sugar than tomatoes!

These actions have been a shot in the arm for the content creator, who has since educated Indians on many other packaged products. His problem, he says, is with the false marketing by companies, which promise nutrition, strength and more for your child, when actually, it’s just filled with sugar. His problem is not with chocolates or Coke as much as with drinks like Bournvita and biscuits that are fed to children daily.

“We usually have chocolate or Coke on the weekends, but a child is having two glasses of Bournvita per day. Yet, we consider the one glass of Coke a problem, not realising the amount of sugar content in the 14 glasses of bournvita we’ve given our child,” he stresses.

To educate people about sugar consumption, Revant has created a sugarboard, which shows the amount of sugar in popular soft drinks. This has been replicated across many schools, ensuring that children stay away from these drinks.

He’s now also working with experts to include nutrition in school curriculums.

From earning Rs 2 crore to zero

While the 32-year-old has been relentless in his pursuit of making Indians ‘health literate’, there have been numerous challenges. Imagine quitting a Rs 2 crore job in the US and coming back to legal notices and legal fees.

Just like any other family would react, his family too thinks that coming back to uncertainty was a “crazy decision”.

Since he hasn’t done sponsored posts so far, Revant has not been able to monetise his content creation on Instagram, he shares. But he has been slapped with more than five legal notices from Multinational corporations (MNCs), leading to massive legal fees.

The support and change he’s seen in his followers is what keeps him going, he shares. “People are now questioning the need to give these so-called ‘health’ drinks to children. They have started reading labels, and that is my biggest victory. Companies too have been pressured to change their packaging and sugar content,” he adds.

While he agrees that changing existing products would be difficult, he hopes that new startups will carefully select the ingredients they add to their offerings.

To educate even more people, he has started a health movement called ‘Label Padhega India’ (India will read labels), where he’s partnered with celebrities and influencers to spread the word.

“If the majority of us start reading labels, companies will be forced to stop false marketing and start giving us better quality food. Let us all unite and transform India from the diabetes capital of the world to the health capital of the world,” reads the slogan of the movement.

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Even as he goes all guns blazing against conglomerates and forces them to rethink their packaging, he urges parents to teach children the art of ‘decoding’ food labels. “The most important skill in the 21st century is not coding, it’s decoding,” he remarks.

Edited by Pranita Bhat; Images Courtesy Revant Himatsingka

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