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HUL versus Amul: Bombay HC adjourns matter till Monday

Viveat Susan Pinto / Mumbai 30 Mar 17 | 06:31 AM

The cold war between Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the marketer of the Amul brand of dairy and ice-cream products, appears to be heating up as the companies spar over whether ice-creams or frozen desserts are a better bet for consumers.  

The Bombay High Court today adjourned the matter pertaining to ice-cream ads by GCMMF, which saw HUL slap a legal notice on it last week. HUL had said the ads misled consumers about frozen desserts, which use vegetable oil instead of dairy fat as an ingredient. 

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In the hearing today, GCMMF sought time to file its reply to HUL's suit following the latter's preliminary submissions in the matter."The court directed Amul (GCMMF) to file its reply by Monday (April 3), post which it will hear the matter for relief," an HUL spokesperson said in an email response. 

"HUL manufactures and markets both ice creams and frozen desserts in India. Both contain milk/milk solids contrary to the depiction in the advertisements and do not contain “Vanaspati"," the spokesperson said.

But GCMMF's MD R S Sodhi has an interesting counter to present about the day's development. He said when contacted: "While we did seek time to file our reply by Monday, the court did not grant interim relief (to HUL) today, which was their main prayer. We can continue airing our ads on television and carrying them in print till then. We have not taken their (HUL's) name anywhere in the ads. We are only seeking to educate consumers about ice-creams and frozen desserts."

The issue, however, about whether ice-creams or frozen desserts are healthier has seen the nearly Rs 8,000-crore market split vertically with some players backing HUL in this fight. Among them are players such as Vadilal and regional brands such as  Fresh & Naturelle from Kolkata. 

Those that use dairy fat instead of vegetable oil when making ice-creams include Amul, Mother Dairy, Havmor and Arun Ice-creams by the Chennai-based Hatsun Agro. One of them - Havmor Ice-creams  - has taken the stand that ice-creams are the "real" thing, similar to the line that Amul has taken in its ads.

"Since 1944, we have only made 100% real milk ice-cream and we believe this is the only way ice-creams should be made," Havmor's MD Ankit Chona said today when announcing the firm's expansion plans in Ahmedabad.

This is the third time that HUL and Amul have sparred over ice-creams and frozen desserts. Last year, HUL had complained to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) that Amul was misleading retail trade by distributing pamphlets comparing ice-creams and frozen desserts. In 2012, Amul had complained to ASCI that HUL was running ads that said its products were ice-creams instead of calling them frozen desserts.

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