Amul vs Hindustan Unilever: The cold war over ice cream and frozen dessert hots up

Hindustan Unilever moved the Bombay HC stating that Amul's ad "disparaged frozen desserts".
Amul vs Hindustan Unilever: The cold war over ice cream and frozen dessert hots up
Amul vs Hindustan Unilever: The cold war over ice cream and frozen dessert hots up
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By Porisma P Gogoi

What's the difference between an ice cream and a frozen dessert? And does it matter?

Yes, if the battle between giants is any indication.

India's largest fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, Hindustan Unilever, had last month filed a case against the country's largest ice-cream maker, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, in the Bombay High Court, successfully obtaining an injunction against an advertisement for Amul ice cream which "disparaged frozen desserts".

Amul's ad had said that people should eat real ice cream made from milk, rather than frozen dessert made from "vanaspati". The court said the ad was "guilty of disparaging a rival product" -- Unilever's Kwality Walls, which is a leader in frozen desserts.

So what's the difference between the two? An ice-cream is made from milk fats while a frozen dessert is made from vegetable oil fats. Vanaspati is a hydrogenated vegetable oil used in cooking, a cheaper substitute for ghee or butter. But it's not used in frozen desserts, say manufacturers.

Every summer, a battle of sorts resumes between ice-cream and frozen dessert makers. Often, consumers are unaware about the difference.

"It becomes very difficult to convince people that we make ice-cream, and not frozen dessert. The approach that we have decided to undertake is to educate the consumers by pointing them to the differentiation which the government of India has made," Chaitanya Rele, Vice President and Head of Marketing at Havmor Ice Cream, told IANS.

Gujarat-based Havmor claims itself to be the second-largest dairy-based ice-cream maker, after Amul.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has categorised ice-creams under "dairy based desserts/confections", further categorised as plain, medium fat and low fat depending on the percentage of total solids, milk fat and milk protein used.

The food regulator defines "frozen dessert/frozen confection" as a product obtained by freezing a pasteurized mix prepared with milk fat and/or edible vegetable oils and fat. The milk fat is used in such dessert for freezing.

According to ice-cream manufacturers, frozen desserts have captured a market share of 40 per cent of the Rs 1,800 crore market with a growth of approximately 10-12 per cent every year.

"We have recently come out with a campaign on print and digital mediums talking only about the goodness of our product -- that they are made from rich, creamy milk," said Randhir Kumar, General Manager, Marketing (Dairy Products) of Mother Dairy.

But are both the products same from the health viewpoint?

Sunita Roy Chowdhury, Chief Dietician at BL Kapoor Hospital, said that frozen desserts have more trans-fat as compared to ice-creams. "Trans fatty acids are not good. I believe trans fatty acids are used in frozen desserts because the normal oil does not freeze. I would suggest ice-creams are better than frozen desserts," Chowdhury asserted.

Nitin Arora, Chief Executive Officer of Creambell -- which markets a combination of ice creams and frozen desserts -- said awareness should be raised on the virtues of vegetable oil compared to those of dairy fat.

"The cooking medium in our houses remains vegetable oil or mustard oil. This is the same ingredient that goes into the making of frozen dessert. The fact remains that nobody uses 'vanaspati' in frozen dessert," Arora told IANS.

He said that most of the single serves are ice creams, while for catering and banqueting packs they use frozen desserts. "If we sell a frozen dessert, it is very clearly labelled. We cannot camouflage a frozen dessert as ice-cream or vice versa," he said.

He said that 10 per cent fat that goes into ice-cream is dairy fat, whereas that 10 per cent going into frozen dessert is vegetable oil fat.

Havmor's Rele says it's a question of consumer awareness. "At the end of the day is frozen dessert a bad thing? No, it's not a bad thing, but there are differences. Importantly, a consumer has a right to know," he said.

(Porisma P. Gogoi can be contacted at

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