Mumbai: Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the maker of Kwality Walls frozen desserts, Monday said rival Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) which makes Amul ice-creams, cannot allege frozen desserts use hydrogenated vegetable oil or vanaspati, unless it can show that all of its manufacturers use it as an ingredient.
HUL has sued GCMMF over its advertisements that supposedly emphasizes the difference between ice-creams and frozen desserts, saying it has harmed” the Kwality Walls brand.
In the pre-admission hearing of the case at the Bombay high court, HUL’s lead counsel senior advocate Virag Tulzapurkar argued that GCMMF must prove hydrogenated vegetable oil use is a “mark of the trade” of making and selling frozen desserts in India. Only then, he argued, can GCMMF’s representation in its ads of frozen desserts as supposedly made from hydrogenated vegetable oil can be called accurate.
Tulzapurkar argued that in fact 70% of frozen dessert in India used edible vegetable oil and not hydrogenated oil, because HUL’s Kwality Walls and co-petitioners Vadilal Industries Ltd and Vadilal Dairy International Ltd together comprise 70% of the Indian frozen dessert market.
Tulzapurkar also argued that GCMMF, as a “practice”, put out misleading ads portraying rivals’ frozen desserts in poor light, only to retract them later.
Tulzapurkar cited an email exchange between Sudhir Sitapati, executive director of HUL’s refreshments division and GCMMF managing director R.S. Sodhi.
“Mr. Sodhi had written that I understand that this ad campaign may impact the frozen dessert market”, Tulzapurkar said. “Mr. Sodhi then said, ‘However, being a dairy cooperative, it was the objective of this campaign’!”
Tulzapurkar further pointed out that GCMMF also sold various products made from edible vegetable oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil, including chocolates, margarine, and the Amul Caramel Cookies dessert.
“What they do is fine, then it is not necessary for them to educate the consumer?” Tulzapurkar said. GCMMF had argued that its ads depicting the difference between frozen desserts and ice-cream, as per regulations of the FSSAI, were meant to inform consumers.
GCMMF MD Sodhi declined to comment as the matter is subjudice. A spokeswoman for HUL also declined to comment saying the matter is subjudice.
The matter was adjourned.