Mumbai: In the ongoing hearing on Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) plea against Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) in the Bombay high court, Justice S.J. Kathawalla suggested changes that could be made to Amul ice-cream ads in an attempt to reach a compromise.
The judge suggested that the makers of Amul ice-cream change the wording in their TVC’s voiceover and change the way frozen desserts are visually depicted in all their ads from a semi-solid to liquid oil.
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.
“Can the problem be solved with saying “vanaspati tel yaani vegetable oil" (vanaspati tel meaning vegetable oil) in the voiceover?" Kathawalla asked. “And you can show oil flowing into the cup (of frozen dessert in the ads)", he said.
GCMMF’s counsel Ravi Kadam said he would put it to Amul to consider the first suggestion. However, HUL’s counsel Birendra Saraf, raised further objections, saying he would be satisfied after they have a look at the modified ad.
Kadam also laid out his defence against HUL’s suit, saying it was the multinational company’s burden to prove that consumers would be misled by the words “vanaspati tel" in Amul’s advertisements.
“The dictionary and Google both show that vegetable oil translates to vanaspati tel", Kadam argued. “The public understands this equivalent and the dictionary shows what the public understands. The burden of proof is on HUL to show that the public does not understand (this translation)."
Further, Kadam argued that since 30% of frozen dessert makers in India use hydrogenated vegetable oil in manufacturing, the ads that refer to a generic frozen dessert cup do not denigrate an entire category.
HUL has accused Amul of disparaging frozen desserts and its product Kwality Walls by trying to imply that these are made with vanaspati or hydrogenated vegetable oil. HUL argued that since Kwality Walls is made from vegetable fats and not hydrogenated oil, and is a market leader in frozen desserts, its product is “disparaged" by Amul ads.
As per regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations, ice-creams made without milk fat are to label themselves frozen desserts. Amul, made from milk fat, is legally called ice-cream under these rules.
GCMMF Managing Director R.S. Sodhi declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the proceedings. When contacted, an HUL spokesperson said, “As the matter is subjudice, we have no comments to offer."
The matter has been adjourned to Thursday, 13 April.