Ashwini Gangal

If a ‘German Lab’ says it’s pure, it must be…

The new tool of persuasion for honey marketers is a claim to ‘100% purity’, backed by Germanic laboratories.

Picture these two print ads:

Deepika Padukone posing with a bottle of honey, saying ‘Ranveer and I eat this every day and so should you!’

A middle-aged, blonde gent in a white coat pointing at a bottle of honey, below a line that reads: ‘Tested for purity in German Lab. Result: 100% pure.’

Which advertisement is more persuasive?

That depends on the date of release, of course. If we’re looking at these ads after the CSE’s (Centre for Science and Environment) declaration, in December 2020, that brands like Dabur, Patanjali and Emami, among others, make “impure” honey, then perhaps the second ad might be deemed more reassuring.

The honey controversy has spawned a whole new type of copywriting, and the operative phrase of the season is ‘German Lab’. Like it's a proper noun. They don't say 'Tested in a German Lab'. They seem to refer to a specific lab... the German lab. One we'd all like to visit someday.

Why Germany? While one might be tempted to hypothesise about the region’s preoccupation with perfection or about its controversial connection to historical claims of racial purity, the reason is actually far more straightforward; the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) test that rendered 10 honey brands impure – adulterated with sugar syrup, essentially – was, per the CSE, conducted in a German lab.

Screenshot taken from a video tweeted by Marico on Dec 29, 2020
Screenshot taken from a video tweeted by Marico on Dec 29, 2020

Marico’s Saffola Honey, that passed the CSE’s test, has been tweeting to show off about having the blessing of the haloed German Lab, while Emami’s Zandu Honey is out with a print ad that counters the CSE’s report with a claim of its own – ‘100% purity guaranteed – Every batch has been tested for purity at German Lab’. It cannot be the same lab, surely?

In smaller font, at the bottom of the ad, is a line about the product being in compliance with the FSSAI’s (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) purity standards. This is noteworthy because brands like Dabur, for instance, that failed the CSE’s purity test, have been reminding us that they are on the right side of the FSSAI. While that’s a fair way to counter criticism, there’s nothing quite like Zandu’s antidote is there? German Lab versus German Lab.

Zandu print ad, Jan 2, 2021
Zandu print ad, Jan 2, 2021

Buyers will do well to take both kinds of claims with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit like that bespectacled doctor in a white coat in Colgate’s ads; you’re almost convinced by what she’s saying, when you spot the same model in a shampoo commercial.

2020 was about 99.9% protection against microbes. For segments like honey, will 2021 be about purity? We’ll let you know when we hear back from the German Lab.

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