‘Health drinks’ no more: After Bournvita, Horlicks and Boost drop the tag

HUL Chief Financial Officer Ritesh Tiwari announced the change while making public the company's earnings on Wednesday.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Apr 26, 2024 | 7:00 AM Updated Apr 26, 2024 | 10:10 AM

Horlicks and Boost

After Bournvita, Horlicks and Boost have dropped their “health drink” tags. The brands are now “functional and nutritional drinks”.

Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) — the owner of the brands Horlicks and Boost — dropped “health” from their labels.

HUL Chief Financial Officer Ritesh Tiwari announced the change while making public the company’s earnings on Wednesday, 24 April.

The decision came after the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s recent directive to ecommerce websites to remove all such drinks and beverages from the “health” category on their websites.

The ministry had earlier stated that the sugar content in these drinks was much above the acceptable limits.

Related: The man behind Bournvita losing ‘health drink’ tag says these are next!

Why Bournvita dropped ‘health’ tag

Revant Himatsingka is a nutritionist who advocates against misleading advertisements and has exposed several such misclaims.

He created a video on Bournvita showcasing its false marketing. This video went viral.

In the video, he critiqued Bournvita’s slogan “Tayyari Jeet Ki” (loose translation: preparing for success), suggesting that the product was actually setting children up for diabetes instead of success.

Detailing the ingredients of the children’s drink, he questioned its health benefits and spoke about how it was high in sugar content.

Then, Mondelez India — whose parent Mondelez International owns the Bournvita brand — sent a legal notice to Revant.

It demanded that the video should be taken down within 24 hours. However, Revant did remove the video.

Mondelez, in a formal response, asserted that the drink was fortified with essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, and D , iron, zinc, and copper.

However, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a notice to Mondelez and said that the advertisements were misleading.

Related: Doctors, scientists come out in support of influencer who outed Bournvita

Doctors welcome move

Finally, on 10 April 10, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an advisory noting that the term “health drink” lacked a definition under the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 or any rules established by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) — or even Mondelez, Cadbury, and other major entities.

Hence, the ministry directed ecommerce platforms to refrain from categorising dairy, cereal, or malt-based beverages as “health drinks” or “energy drinks”.

The ministry noted that it believed this move would prevent consumer confusion and misleading advertisement practices.

Doctors and food experts praised the move. Dr Sudhir Kumar, a noted neurologist from Hyderabad’s Apollo Hospitals, took to X (formerly Twitter) and said this was “an important step” as consumers “often get misled” by tags such as “health drink” or “health food” on labels of products

Bengaluru-based paediatrician Dr Sanjeev G told South First that now it was the task of doctors — especially paediatricians — to spread awareness on this.

“Each time I tell a family that these drinks are not ‘health drinks’, they say ‘Oh! Boost has been the secret of our energy! Horlicks is the best for all proteins and nutrition, and we have been drinking these for ages to be healthy!’ Now, I can easily put an end to such conversations!” he noted.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)