Aishwarya Ramesh

“Some children don’t like the taste of honey; this is a way of getting through to them”: Prashant Agarwal, Dabur India

Bread has many accompaniments in India – especially if you happen to nurse a sweet tooth. You could drizzle a splash of strawberry syrup on it, spread a spoonful of Nutella, or opt for a spoon of good, old-fashioned jam.

Dabur’s latest product makes an entry into this world and is attempting to portray an age-old Ayurvedic ingredient in a new light. The FMCG giant has introduced a product called Honey Tasties – in strawberry and chocolate variants. With an ad by Havas Worldwide that shows the coming together of two worlds, Dabur has officially arrived.

There is movement in this category after the stir in December 2020. Major honey brands such as Dabur, Patanjali, and Emami (Zandu Pure Honey) failed a purity test conducted by a German laboratory according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi-based public interest research and advocacy organisation. Out of the 13 honey brands that were tested, Marico’s Saffola honey was the only big brand to pass all the tests.

To drive the point home about the product, an ad illustrates that the product can be added to milk, spread on bread, drizzled on pancakes/waffles, and used to make desserts. It can also be used as a topping in beverages like cold chocolate and cold coffee, besides ice cream.

Prashant Agarwal, Dabur India’s marketing head – health supplements, mentions over a call that he wants the product to act as a replacement for sugar, just like honey has been doing for years. So, there is emphasis on ‘zero added sugar’ in the commercial as well as marketing efforts.

Prashant Agarwal
Prashant Agarwal
"This product will not take away from the health benefits of honey. Lots of studies have been done all over the world on the properties of this Ayurvedic ingredient."
Prashant Agarwal

We wonder whether positioning honey as a spread will dilute its 'immunity equity', something the brand has harped on since the pandemic broke. “This product will not take away from the health benefits of honey. Lots of studies have been done all over the world on the properties of this Ayurvedic ingredient. There is no product right now in the market similar to this one and the alternatives are all sugar-laden. We wanted to bring about that change in consumption,” Agarwal defends.

And sure enough, the label on the bottle has the words 'Vitamin D' printed on it. Speaking of bottle, don't miss the packaging; the bottle is designed to look and feel like a honeycomb, reminding users at the visual and tactile level that this is honey afterall.

"A lot of children don’t like the taste of honey and this is a way of getting through to that audience."
Prashant Agarwal

Agarwal mentions that sugar is harmful for people in the long run. “The R&D team is responsible for identifying this gap in the market. It zeroed in on the chocolate and strawberry flavours, and was responsible for creating the final products.”

“A lot of children don’t like the taste of honey and this is a way of getting through to that audience.”

He mentions that as per the brief given to the agency (Havas Worldwide), the end goal was to romanticise honey.

Agarwal also tells us that another purpose of the ad is to create curiosity about the product and drive sampling for the same. Sampling has changed in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The product will be available on BigBasket and grocery stores across India, and the hope is that it reaches young moms, who are looking for healthy snacking alternatives for their kids.

Reviewing the effort…

Pragati Rana, senior vice president strategy - Isobar India, mentions that the equity of honey, as an Ayurvedic product, is going to be reframed in the context of the new variants.

“This product is contemporising honey, creating new consumption occasions, and talking to a different mindset. The real driver of this product's consumption is the taste, while honey is a reassurance of health in the product.”

She adds that it competes with not only Nutella and jams, but also Hershey's syrups and all the other 'western' flavoured syrups in the market.

Pragati Rana
Pragati Rana

She theorises that a few things have happened in the food category that may have driven this launch. First, the kids have become pickier and more assertive about what they will eat and what they won't. Second, the pandemic has forced parents to think of inventive ways to introduce 'newness' in the regular home food menu.

Third, there is an explosion of food delivery services and the accessibility of eating out options, which are now competing with home food. And last, parents are worried about children eating junk and sugar-laden unhealthy food, and are looking for healthier eating habits.

“Using a traditional Indian ingredient like honey and making it relatable for the new generation is a great product idea. Honey makes it healthy in a traditional way. 'Sugar-free' and addition of Vitamin D is a more modern way of being healthy. And, the focus on flavours like chocolate and strawberry, coupled with the format of syrup, makes the product new age and relevant.”

She quite likes the chocolate packaging. “The idea of using codes of honey in the product design is pretty cool.”

Amit K Shrivastava, director at Learning Curve, a Gurugram-based brand consultancy, points out that Dabur already offers chocolate and fruit flavoured Chyawanprash.

“I am sure the indications are positive enough for it to extend the idea to honey. It is possible that the users may believe the flavoured variants to be less ‘do-good’ compared to the original one. But it may still be seen as better as compared to alternatives, like jams and chocolate spreads. I doubt if it will hurt the equity of honey.”

Amit K Shrivastava
Amit K Shrivastava

He agrees with Rana’s point about competition, mentioning that the product competes with any sort of sweet spread – jams, marmalades, Nutella, etc.

“It is expanding the usage of honey to a segment that finds the authentic honey taste boring/prohibitive, and especially targeting moms who are keen to offer a healthier alternative to their kids. It looks convenient from a usage point of view (compared to a jar/bottle that requires a spoon). The original Dabur Honey is also available in this pack. I wonder if it is inspired by the shape of honey bees, thereby implying the purity/authenticity of the product.”