According to a study by TAM, advertising volumes for the honey category in the print medium grew nine times during December 2020 compared to November 2020.
In Q1FY21, Dabur saw more than 60% surge in demand for Dabur Honey.
Following the findings of Centre for Science and Environment that almost all honey brands in the country were adulterated, leading brands have escalated advertising on television, print and digital mediums to preserve their reputation.
According to a study by TAM, advertising volumes for the honey category in the print medium grew nine times during December 2020 compared to November 2020. Honey advertising on digital was up by a factor of four for the same period of comparison. Industry analysts estimate that each leading brand has allocated about `7-8 crore towards advertising now for this purpose.
Dabur and Patanjali, which are among the 10 brands that did not pass the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) test, are working on reassuring consumers about purity of their products. Dabur has launched a campaign which invites consumers to verify the authenticity of their bottle of honey by downloading a purity certificate from the company’s website.
Data from TAM shows that the company, which was advertising its new honey products infused with tulsi and ashwagandha in November has shifted focus to promoting the parent brand — Dabur Honey. There has been a seven-fold increase in advertising for Dabur Honey in November-December 2020 over the same period last year.
Meanwhile, in a 15-second ad, Baba Ramdev claims that Patanjali Honey meets more than 100 parameters and is unadulterated. Advertising volume for Patanjali Honey has grown 17 times on television in December 2020 over November 2020.
Saffola Honey, which is one of the three brands that passed the NMR test, increased its advertising volume in the print medium by 28 times in December 2020 over November 2020. Akin to Dabur Honey, consumers can receive the Saffola Honey Certificate of Purity for their bottle of honey by sending an image of the batch number of the bottle to Saffola. Markfed Sohna Honey, which also cleared the NMR test, has increased print advertising in December 13-fold over November.
Harping on ‘purity’ may not be the best course of action for brands, though, say analysts. “This sudden focus on the purity aspect could make consumers who may not have heard of the CSE findings now doubt the authenticity of the product. Instead, brands must talk about the benefits of their products, such as boosting immunity,” said MG Parameswaran, founder, Brand-Building.com.
Could this controversy impact sales? “A revelation of this magnitude, especially for a product that is consumed for its medicinal properties, could have a huge negative impact on sales for two to three months,” says Saurabh Uboweja, managing partner, BOD Consulting. He adds that if brands can show evidence for clearing stringent tests, consumers may repose faith in brands.
The investigation by CSE has kindled a battle between brands. Dabur and Marico have lodged complaints against each other to advertising regulatory authority ASCI. Manisha Kapoor, secretary general at ASCI, informs that in 2020, the regulatory body received six complaints against honey brands. “Four complaints were upheld as they contravened the ASCI code. Two other complaints are in process right now,” she says. In December alone, ASCI received four complaints for honey advertisements, including two intra-industry complaints.
Varun Roojam, MD, Markfed, reportedly said that the brand received a lot of queries ever since the CSE report showed that Markfed Sohna Honey passed the NMR test. Analysts feel that while the brands that have cleared the tests will benefit, not all brands that carry the ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ tag will see a spurt in sales. “If leading brands like Dabur have not passed a certain test, consumers will be less inclined to purchase lesser-known brands based on a claim they make,” says Parameswaran.
In 2020, the branded honey market, worth nearly `1,800 crore (as per industry estimates), saw a spike in demand as people rushed to buy immunity boosters to fight off Covid-19. In Q1FY21, Dabur saw more than 60% surge in demand for Dabur Honey. To cash in on the opportunity, Marico introduced Saffola Honey in the same quarter, claiming to have garnered 8% market share in modern trade within the first three months of launch.