New Delhi: This is one advertisement, where Amul, known for its iconic and cheeky billboards, finds itself on the wrong foot. Last week, Hindustan Unilever Ltd filed a petition against Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, or GCMMF (which owns the Amul brand), saying that its advertisement disparages so-called frozen desserts and should be removed.
Now, at least two other ice-cream makers are joining forces with HUL, which owns the Kwality Wall’s brand, to take on Amul as the battle for the Rs7,700-crore ice-cream market heats up ahead of the summer.
While two Vadilal group companies are co-petitioners in HUL’s petition, Pabrai’s Fresh & Naturelle Ice-Cream, a Kolkata-based firm, is planning to implead itself in the case, said its founder Anuvrat Pabrai.
According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, ice-cream made with vegetable oil have to be labelled “frozen desserts” while only those with milk fat in it can be legally called “ice-cream”.
Amul’s ice-cream carries the tag line “Real Milk, Real Ice-Cream” and its advertisement implied that ice-cream made with dairy fat has better quality.
Pabrai, whose firm is the member of the Indian Ice-Cream Manufacturers Association, said that other firms who are part of the grouping are also considering joining the case. He didn’t reveal details.
“We have some companies who make only ice-creams, some who make only frozen desserts, and some who make both,” he said. “So members who made frozen desserts are upset with Amul’s misleading ads, made a subgroup of our Association’s WhatsApp group” to discuss the issue.
Neither Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) nor HUL are part of the association.
Vadilal Industries Ltd’s managing director Devanshu Gandhi did not respond to requests for a comment.
“Amul has been airing a misleading television commercial since March 2017. This advertisement makes factually incorrect statements creating apprehensions among consumers of Frozen Desserts,” HUL said an emailed statement on Friday. It declined to comment on other manufacturers joining battle with Amul.
The fight between ice-cream and frozen dessert makers dates back to 2011 when FSSAI first framed rules differentiating the two.
HUL had earlier filed a case against the same advertisement in October 2016 at the Advertising Standards Council of India, said GCMMF managing director R.S. Sodhi. The council had ruled in Amul’s favour, he added.
“We are not telling consumers that frozen desserts are bad for you or that vegetable oil is good for you,” Amul’s Sodhi said. “We are only giving consumers awareness. It is up to them to make a choice,” he said. “We shall be very aggressive in informing consumers and we have the right to do so.”
GCMMF was the leader in the combined frozen dessert and ice-cream market in 2016 with 17% market share, according to a Euromonitor report. However, the company “suffered from the expansion of a number of smaller players” in 2016, the report said.
In the end,this might just be a battle for marketshare as consumers don’t care about technical differences.
“I don’t think most people care about the healthiness of their ice-cream,” Harminder Sahni, founder of retail advisory firm Wazir Advisors said. “With ice-creams, people only care about taste. They will go for the flavour from the brand that appeals to them the most. Ice-cream is eaten occasionally, unlike cooking oil where people care about the (type of) fat in it and whether it is refined or not.”
“Since the time Amul became aggressive about the difference between ice-cream and frozen dessert, Kwality Wall’s has been fighting back,” he added.