Ethical Issues Regarding Astron Private Limited’s Product Strategy

First the essay will discuss the introduction about the selected company, “Astron private limited” and the selected product, “Advanced Weight Gainer”.

Astron Limited is a Sri Lankan owned company which advances productions and imports excellence healthcare products. The company was integrated in 1956 creating a landmark in the pharmacological industry by setting up the first pharmacological manufacturing facility in the country. Astron is dedicated to the expansion of the local health care trade industry in Sri Lanka. Furthermore it takes guidance and plays a dynamic role in this field (Astron limited, 2012).

Astron limited (2012) noted that its manufacturing and production plant is separated into four areas namely; “General Pharmaceuticals, Penicillin, Consumer and Animal Health”. It has the infrastructure to produce tablets, capsules, liquids, suspensions, powders, ointments and creams. All the products are manufactured using raw materials of the highest quality. All products are locally manufactured under the required standards of Good Manufacturing Practices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health Sri Lanka.

According to Astron limited (2012), “Astron Consumer division is loyal to add life & vitality to many individuals through the provision of a wide array of products targeting the geriatric, active adults, adolescents, children, sports persons and even the health and beauty conscious. Astron Animal Health products consist of close by manufactured and imported formulations” (Astron limited, 2012).

The academic essay covers the product mix of 4Ps discussing a current issue of quality and reliability of Astron Advanced Astron Weight Gainer product. This product was found as a healthy weight nutrition gaining supplement. It is specially enriched with excess of nutrients like calories, arginine, glutamine and lysine which are vital components for healthy weight gain (Astron.lk, 2012). According to Astron,lk (2012), the target market of “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer” covers underweight individuals and athletes those who require further nutrition.

The academic essay will first address a comprehensive literature review regarding the ethical aspects of product mix. It will cover the various arguments made by the journalists and authors. Moving on critical analysis involved with abstracting the unethical practices done regarding “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer”. Finally, the conclusion will discuss the main spotlights discovered through the whole academic essay and recommendations will provide the possible solutions for the areas need to be improved within the Astron weight gainer product.

The next part of the essay will discuss the literature regarding the ethical way of doing marketing and ethical consideration of product mix.

According to Smith (1993: 10), ethical marketing means “the application of ethical considerations to marketing decision making”. Belz et al. (2009) stated that companies should follow sustainability marketing with high focus on ethical perspective. Morgan (1993: 350-351) noted that when it comes to product mix, “lots of faulty products are released out by firms in new product development stage, which damage consumers”. As noted by Andrew et al. (1997, p.561) “the use of ethics and social responsibility as sources of differentiation and added Value for products and services in this way can be regarded as the marketing of ethical products”. On the other hand, “ethics and social responsibilities are closely tied together” (Goolsby/Hunt, 1992: 58). Furthermore Andrew et al. (2001 p.362 ) noted that ethical products should consider the factors like “product safety, environmental impacts, consumer privacy, employee welfare, discrimination, fair pricing, community action, charitable donations, etc”. However Bezencon et al. (2010 p. 1306) stated that “ethical products exhibit one or several social or environmental principles which might affect consumer purchase decision.” Moreover Boatright (1993, p. 332); Velasquez (1982, p. 235) examined that “firms have a moral responsibility to make safe products”. Crane and Ennew (1995) indicated that an ethical product should ensure different levels like “product safety, environmental impact and the way of marketed and social responsibilities”. Folkes et al. (1999) noted that superior product made in an unethical way largely impacts on consumer attitudes prevailing even a inferior product with low specifications.

Packaging and labeling should also be a part of ethical concerns. Chonko (1995:192) noted that there can be information on labels over praising the product than its true value. Moreover the labels should not contain consumer misleading information which is unethical. According to Majtan et al. (n.d.) the theory “due care” to customers should be accomplished when considering product mix. Under this theory of “due care”, all the materials and products should meet all governmental regulations and specifications. Products should be inspected to ensure quality and free of defects. Majtan et al. (n.d.) also emphasized that products should be safely packed with clear directions for use and should include clear description of any hazards. Eleonora et al. (1999 p.39) noted that “an ethical product should always be a safety product and safety is treated as a threshold issue”. Additionally according to Majtan et al. (n.d.) manufactures should have a system to recall products that are dangerous to customers. A quality product should meet less health and safety hazards and ensure the maintenance or warranty of the product. The manufacturer has a moral duty to provide a product with no risks to customers. Everything related to the products performance should be provided to customers in written (Majitan et al., n.d.). Chonko (1995, p.195-197); Kaya (1991, p.3) noted that failing in terms of guarantee related to product and performing planned product obsolesce leads to shorten product life cycle. Additionally according to Crane (1997) an ethical product mix should consists of “environmental friendly” features or green products.

Moving on, next part will discuss about the critical analysis of the unethical product mix of Astron Pvt. Ltd according to the theories discussed in literature review.

First it should be noted that according to Corleone (2015), this product should be best used by the underweight individuals and sportsmen. But the label of the product says it is suitable for any person above 13 years old. Moreover they target children for their products.  It is ethically wrong to target children especially when it comes to food and beverages, as it may lead to child obesity. This can also lead to “product vulnerable”, which is an unethical practice.

This is a form of misleading customers with wrong information on label. Any person will be influenced to purchase it even when it doesn’t add values to them. It illustrates the “lack of fitness for purpose” of the product. It provides no benefits or wrong outcomes to customers over praising the true value in order to increase company’s sales revenue.

It was evident that although “Astron advanced weight gainer” can be used as a supplementary food item for the underweight individuals, it has several numbers of side effects that have not been disclosed by the firm. Product’s excess of nutrients is the main reason for these side effects.

Table 1:- Average composition per 100g of milk powder

Astron Advanced Weight GainerAnchorHighland
Energy (kcal)412512497
Protein (g)3426.4326.4
Vitamin C (mg)5011.67
Iron (mg)8.75

Sources: – Company websites/ Primary data gathered from supermarkets

According to the above table, compared to other general milk powders, “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer” does not provide significant portion of energy. But the protein, Vitamin C and Iron composition is too high which may lead to several side effects. High

Vitamin C and Iron leads to stomach problems (Sharma, 2015). This can also harm children. Additionally according to Sharma (2015), weight gainers have side effects like, Liver problems and Nausea that occur if it remains in the stomach as insoluble.

Furthermore compared to normal milk powders Astron weight gainer utilizes excess portion of minerals and Amino acid that results in side effects

Table 2:- Excess nutrients

Astron Advanced Weight GainerAnchorHighland
Total Minerals (mg)3844.4537003200.25
Total Amino Acid (g)104.25

Sources: – Company websites, primary data from supermarkets

According to the above table the mineral and Amino Acid composition of Astron Advanced Weight Gainer is too high. Sharma (2015) noted that these excess of nutrients leads to side effects like,

Kidney problems – Indirectly causes the kidney stones making body hormones susceptible to it (Sharma, 2015).

Liver problems – Cause to severe liver problems when Weight gainer is consumed with alcohol (Sharma, 2015).

Muscle Pulls and Cramps – If people involve in too exhaustive exercises with the consumption of weight gainer it may result in lack of sufficient fluid supply that may lead to cramp or pull muscles (Sharma, 2015).
Breathing Problems – Consumption of weight gainers also often led to breathing problems such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing and even asthma. Importantly according to Sharma (2015) this product is not recommended for people suffer with breathing problems.
Nausea and Diarrhea – Nausea and diarrhea can occur in case health supplement remains insoluble in the stomach (Sharma, 2015).

Corleone (2015) noted that taking high calorie supplement like Astron Weight Gainer by a physically healthy person leads to be too fat. Additionally according to Food Allergy Research and Education, weight gainers are a potential source of soy or milk which supports food allergens. Plus, these supplements also contain a variety of other nutrients and herbal supplements, which may potentially cause an allergic reaction. Medline Plus warns that weight gainer consumption can lead to damages in kidneys.

Consumption of weight gainers and the effects may be aggregated if medicine for alternative diseases is taken during the consumption period.

The side effects of Astron Advanced weight gainer, reflects the product is unsafe and can even put worse impacts on consumer lives. It doesn’t contain healthy features and ingredients suitable for every customer revealing quality of the product is low. This can be recognized as breaking “due care” to customers which means unethical. But organizations should be legally obliged to provide products and services which are safe, effective and fit for the purpose.

Additionally although it produces side effects to purchasers no description of hazards is mentioned by the firm. This is a form of unsafe packaging and poor design which leads to Break “due care” to customers. Also company has not provided everything related to the products performance in written, which is fundamental as per Majitan et al. (n.d.). Moreover according to Food Act No. 26 of 1980, the words “UNSUITABLE FOR INFANTS” should be mentioned in the labels of partly skimmed or skimmed milk powder containers. But being a skimmed milk powder “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer” has not mentioned it. Moreover, Astron Private Ltd. does not consist of a system to recall products that are dangerous to customers which is essential as per Majtan et al. (n.d.).

The product, “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer” should be consumed after the prior approval of a physician. In addition according to Sharma (2015), people who suffer with alternative diseases like breathing problems, should not consume it. But the label does not reveal it which means lack of clear directions. According to Majtan et al. (n.d.) it is unethical not to disclose clear directions on how to use.

In addition, Astron Advanced Weight Gainer does not meet SLS certification which is an excellent indication of a quality assured product. Also Majtan et al. (n.d.) highlights that an ethical product should meet all the government regulations and standards. The lack of SLS certification also questions the guarantee of this product.

Astron Advanced weight gain powder is a shortcut or quicker way to weight gain and muscle gains. But according to Sharma (2015), the easiest and the fastest way is not the safest way as the usage of the product is not accredited or recommended by physicians.

Additionally the Astron milk powder and most of the company’s products are contained in steel tins which are non recyclable tins and not supporting environment. This emphasizes the environmental harming components used by the firm which is unethical. This involves violating sustainability practices emphasized by “The world Commission on Environment and development” (1987). This is also working against ISO 14001:2004 standard and national environmental act, no.53 of 2000 when it has emphasized on utilizing environmental friendly components.

Furthermore when it comes to policies related to product mix, consumers also have the responsibility of not misusing the product. This means consumers also have the duty of avoiding inappropriately and over consuming weight gainer, consulting a physician before consuming the product etc.

Before recommendations the next part of the academic essay will discuss the conclusion developed based on the overall essay.

On this essay first the nature of the company was identified. Through the introduction, Astron limited has been identified as a local company which was integrated in 1956 setting up the first pharmacological manufacturing facility in the country. Its Animal Health products consist of manufactured and imported formulations.

Literature review captured the ethical way of doing marketing and ethical consideration of product mix. It covered arguments like “lots of faulty products are released out by firms in new product development stage, which damage consumers” By morgan (1993:350-351), “the use of ethics and social responsibility as sources of differentiation and added value for products and services in this way can be regarded as the marketing of ethical products” by Andrew et al. (1997, p.561), “ethical products exhibit one or several social or environmental principles which might affect consumer purchase decision” by Bezenconet al. (2010 p. 1306).

In critical analysis the focus was given on the unethical product nix of the astron private limited. It was disclosed that wrong information is given for the customers by the firm which is one of the unethical practices. This product causes many side effects too due to its excessive nutrition compositions. Not following essential standards and acts, providing less information and wrong information just to increase sales has led them to consider them as unethical. It was pointed out that consumers also have a duty to be well aware of the product before purchasing and evade misusing it.

Viewing the overall essay it can be concluded that, in company wise following unethical practices can be marketing tricks followed by the firm to attract customers and in social and environmental wise it is not recommended to follow such practices. It also can lead to destroy future company image and reputation. It should also be noted that although “Astron Advanced Weight Gainer” follows immoral practices of product mix, its practices regarding price, place and promotion found to be ethical. Company found to be charging fair prices, adopting ethical relationships with manufacturers and distributors and following ethical marketing strategies.

The final decision on this essay is, now a day the companies lack ethical marketing practices since they mostly focuses on increasing profits being in too competitive market place. Therefore it is highly required to set up a proper set of ethics by all the firms regarding marketing, to avoid the customers being misled.

At last the academic essay will discuss regarding the recommendations that can be implemented by the firm for better ethical product mix practices

Since it is a well established and trusted corporation, it should be more responsible towards the product quality. The R&D department of the company should put in an extra amount of effort to accurately find out the correct group of people that should be recommended to use the product (its main target was underweight people), and the phrase that its suitable for people of 13 years and older should be removed as such products would have a greater affect on a younger and tender body and should include the line ‘not suitable for infants’.

The excess amount of nutrients should also be balanced out to avoid side effects. The weight of which again falls on the shoulder of the R&D department. They should make the maximum possible effort to reduce such effects. More important is that these side effects, until reduced and taken care of, should be disclosed on the package and in all marketing campaigns so the people will at least have a knowledge on the possible effects. So it should try to balance out the difference in proportion between the energy, iron and excess vitamin, as those are proven to be harmful for the stomach and young children especially. And the excess amount of amino acid and minerals should also be reduced to avoid kidney, liver, breathing problems, nausea, etc.

The inclusion of certain herbal ingredients, soy and milk they that are potential allergens should be tried and avoided or be mention on the package so that people with allergies would refrain from buying it and the company should indicate products that could prove dangerous to certain customers.

One of the most important actions to be taken is obtaining the SLS certificate as it would prove that the product has obtained excellent quality. The container should be replaced with a package more recyclable and environmental friendly. Warning of possible hazards, side effects and danger should be mentioned on the package as it is completely unethical for a company to not do that. And it is highly recommended that this product is available only in pharmaceuticals that prioritize to sell the product only under the approval of a physician.

Questionnaire

This questionnaire was prepared based on the discussions had with Mr. Prashan Costa, brand manager at Astron Private Limited.

  1. Mainly in what industry are you specialized?

We are specialized in healthcare sector by producing Pharmaceutical products.

  1. What are the products that you all produce?

The production plant is divided into four areas namely General Pharmaceuticals, Penicillin, Consumer and Animal Health. Mainly our brands are Reneshen, Jointeez, Bromex, Diasure, Weight gain, Protinex and beautine. Our Animal Health is Layer Premix B, Starter Premix B, Aminol, Vita-Stress, Layer Premix C, Neo-Tetra, Poultry B and Sulfaquinoxaline.

  1. What do you all do to make your product innovative?

First we identify the needs of our customers and then we make changes in our manufacturing process such as adding new variables to modify our products or make changes in packaging, in order to fulfill our customers need innovatively.

  1. What about the quality of your products? What are the technologies that you all are using?

Our quality control department controls the quality of our products and we ensure that the quality of our products is high. All products are manufactured using internationally raw materials of the highest quality. All products are locally manufactured under the required standards of Good Manufacturing Practices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health Sri Lanka. Talking about the technologies, those are highly advanced to produce a quality product.

  1. What are the International and local standards your products have been certified?

We could gain ISO 22000 food safety management, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), for our products to ensure the high quality of products.

  1. Let us know more in detailed about “Advanced Weight Gainer”

“Advanced Weight Gainer” is a supplementary food product produced to gain weight and excess nutrition within a short period. This is designed for all the individuals who seek to gain weight. This product is rich in protein, calories, vitamins, minerals and amino acid. This helps to repair and grow your muscles rapidly too.

  1. Is this product suitable for any person?

Yes. This can be used by any person. But it is specially designed for those who need excess nutrient.

  1. What are the directions customers should follow prior consuming this product to prevent any hazard?

You can have it 2 or 3 times per day. This can be prepared in the same manner you prepare tea. Also I should say that this product will not produce such hazards to anyone.

  1. Will a person suffer with any other effects if he stops taking this?

After gaining required weight you can stop taking Advanced Weight Gainer. But you should maintain your daily food intake in a proper way too. If so this product will not carry any effects.

  1. What are the marketing practices you follow to attract more sales to “Advanced Weight Gainer”

We mainly focus on newspaper advertisements and not much into TV advertisements. Also we have built good relationships with pharmacies and other medicine suppliers. I would say if you walk in to any pharmacy or supermarket, Astron products are available there.

  1. What do you convey about your product strategies?

We always dedicate to provide the product what customer wants most. We mainly focus on the quality and effectiveness to the customer of our products. We are looking forward to provide cost effective and innovative products to customers.

  1. What are the ethical practices you follow regarding “Advanced Weight Gainer”?

We are highly dedicated to provide products to customers more ethically. We utilize international finest raw materials for the product. The entire healthcare products including “weight gainer powder” are tested verified and inspected using standard techniques.

Reference List

Andrew and Crane (1997). ‘The dynamics of marketing ethical products: a cultural perspective’ , journal of marketing Management, Vol.13( No. 6), p.561 -577 .

Andrew and Crane(2001). ‘Unpacking the Ethical product’, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol.30 (No. 4), pp. 361-373.

Astron limited (2012) About Astron. Available at: http://www.astron.lk/index.php/brands [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Belz, F., Peattie, K. (2009) ‘Sustainability marketing : a global perspective’.
Hoboken, N.J [etc.]: Wiley [etc.].

Bezencon ,V and Blili , S .( 2010 ) . ‘Ethical products and consumer involvement: what’s new ?’ ,European Journal of Marketing, Vol.44( No. 9/10), p.1305-1321 .

Bezencon, V., Blili, S. (2009) ‘Ethical products and consumer involvement: what’s new?’, European Journal of Marketing, 44(9/10)pp. 1305 – 1321.

Corleone, J. (2015). ‘What are the negative effects of weight gainers?’, Jill Corleone’s newslog, 11 December. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/441786-what-are-the-negative-effects-of-weight-gainer/ (Accessed: 22 April 2016).

Curlo and Eleonora(1999). ‘Marketing strategy , Product Safety , and Ethical Factors in Consumer choice ’ ,Journal of Business Ethics, Vol.21( No .1), pp.37-48 .

Food act 1980. The status (2003). Colombo: Minister of Health in consultation with the Food Advisory Committee.

Human Marketing Project (n.d.) Ethics and the marketing mix: recommendations to marketing managers. Available at: https://humanmarketingproject.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/ethics-and-the-marketing-mix-recommendations-to-marketing-managers/ (Accessed: 21 April 2016).

Majtan, S. (n.d.) ‘The ethics in the product marketing’, Journal of Diagnostic of Value Relations and Market Activities in an Enterprise. Available at: www.vse.cz/polek/download.php?jnl=eam&pdf=24.pdf (Accessed: 21 April 2016).

Murphy, Patrick E. (199 ) . ‘Businessethics :a mature product . (Business ethics as seen through product life cycle construct)’, Business ethics Quarterly, Vol.4 (No. 3), pp. 383 -389.

Sharma, S. (2015) ‘Side effects of weight gain powder’, Himanshu Sharma’s newslog, 30 March. Available at: http://www.onlymyhealth.com/side-effects-weight-gain-powder-1327916658 (Accessed: 22 April 2016).

Siham, B. (2013) ‘MARKETING MIX- AN AREA OF UNETHICAL PRACTICES?’ British journal of marketing studies, 1(2) pp.20-28.

Somapala, E. (n.d.) ‘Food regulations 2012’ [Powerpoint presentation]. Available at: www.ou.ac.lk/home/images/Faculty_and…/food_regulations2012.ppt (Accessed: 23 April 2016).

Individual Contribution

NameIndex numberContribution
Niromi Lokugamage10541776Literature review, Critical analysis
Arosha De Silva10541381Literature review, Critical analysis
Vidya Subramaniam10541769Recommendations
Nipuni Gunarathna10541390Introduction
Poornika Liyanage10541429Conclusion