Shreyas Kulkarni

Dabur Honey extols purity and quality, takes indirect dig at Saffola Honey in new ad

Dabur had taken Saffola Honey to court on allegations of imitation of bottle, trade-dress, label and packaging of Dabur honey.

The 7th October Dabur Honey ad, made by Havas Creative, is the brand’s latest salvo in its ongoing feud against Marico’s Saffola Honey. Yes, India’s latest brand war is over honey.

In the 40-second ad, we see a guy dissuade a lady from buying what appears to be a bottle of Dabur Honey but is, in fact, a lookalike. The second part of the ad talks about the NMR test and 60+ quality checks Dabur Honey undergoes which help to support the brand’s claim of being the world’s leading honey brand.

Kunal Sharma, category head, Dabur India said, “Dabur Honey has been the trusted name in this category in India for decades and is now the World’s No. 1 Honey Brand in terms of sales volume. In recent times, a number of new Honey brands have hit the shelves copying Dabur Honey’s packaging in an attempt to mislead consumers to mistakenly pick up their products.

To address this, Dabur decided to launch a new TV campaign to educate consumers about why to pick only the original Dabur Honey and not lookalike products”.

Saffola Honey vs Dabur Honey
Saffola Honey vs Dabur Honey

It all began in July when Dabur filed a case in the Delhi High-Court against Saffola Honey and alleged, as per an Economic Times report, that “its Mumbai rival “imitated” the bottle, trade-dress, label and packaging of Dabur honey.” The report also mentioned that Marico will continue to manufacture and sell Saffola Honey in its current avatar in the market.

A month later, Saffola Honey released its first ad. It was perhaps the first time, we saw a scientist in a lab coat examine honey's purity under a microscope in an ad. However, one scene caught our eye: When the guy hears that Saffola Honey is 100 per cent pure, he asks, “Why? Is our old honey not pure?”… A nod to Dabur Honey which first retailed in 1965.

Both Dabur and Saffola have said their honey undergoes the NMR test for purity. Short for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, it’s a quality control tool to analyse honey for purity.

As per Dabur’s website, its honey brand has eight variants that start from 20gm and go up to 1Kg and the prices start from Rs 17 and cap off at Rs 395. On the other hand, Saffola which launched its honey offering in 2020 offers variants that range from 250gm to 1.5Kg and are priced from Rs 110 to Rs 430. The other players in India’s honey market include the likes of Patanjali, Beez Honey, Himalaya Forest Boney, and Honey Basket.

We spoke to Jasravee Chandra, director - brand building, research and innovation, Master Sun, the consulting brand of Adiva L Pvt. Ltd (has worked on brands such as Coke, Tang, Knorr among others in a career spanning over 20 years) about the new Dabur Honey ad.

She found it funny, more convincing than the Saffola ad and likely to connect better with the consumers.

Jasravee Chandra
Jasravee Chandra

She told us that when Dabur Honey takes an indirect dig at Saffola, calling it ‘nakal karne wala’ and claiming that Dabur Honey is the ‘real honey’ it is basis "the credibility that Dabur has earned over three decades." Also, it nullifies the superiority claim of Saffola of the NMR technology.

Throwing in some stats, Chandra stated that Dabur Honey is the market leader with approximately 54 per cent market share of the organised market of around Rs 1,200 crore while Saffola, the challenger, on the other hand, stands for research, innovation and science. COVID she stated has ensured a huge upsurge with an 80 per cent increase in demand.

Commenting on the rivalry, she felt Saffola “needed to have a more nuanced (‘sweeter’) strategy, rather than just taking a dig.” But, she credited Saffola which identified a key issue with the category with consumers ‘not always sure about the extent of purity’ and said: “… the reference to the established leader as ‘purana wala’ is in poor taste and a tad bit premature.”

Taking digs at each other isn’t the best route to take felt Chandra and termed it a high-risk strategy and added that it “…could raise a rival brand’s profile, with the spends of your own marketing budget. It could lead to retaliatory ads by the competitor that could cause lasting damage to your brand”.

“But when a brand gets it right, the result can be a very memorable ad like ‘Get a Mac’ ad. It shows that it is possible to take a dig at a rival brand and win,” signed off Chandra.

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