HUL withdraws ‘health’ label from Horlicks, rebrands it as ‘functional nutritional drink’ amid regulatory changes

Hindustan Unilever (HUL), the owner of Horlicks and Boost, has rebranded its ‘health food drinks’ category to ‘functional nutritional drinks’ (FND), following the recent regulatory changes in the health drinks category.

This comes after the Ministry of Commerce and Industry ordered all e-commerce platforms to remove drinks and beverages from the ‘healthy drinks’ category.

“NCPCR, a statutory body constituted under section (3) of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 after its inquiry under Section 14 of CPCR Act, 2005, concluded that there is no Health Drink defined under FSS Act 2006, Rules and regulations as submitted by FSSAl and Mondelez India Food Pvt Ltd,” read the notification issued by the ministry on April 10.

Further, it stated that “all e-commerce companies/portals are hereby advised to remove drink/beverages, including Bournvita from the category of ‘health drinks’ from their sites/platforms.”

On April 24, Ritesh Tiwari, the chief financial officer of Hindustan Unilever, said, “We have changed the labels of the category to FND which is a much better way to call it.”

Tiwari noted the FND category is under-penetrated, so there is a big opportunity for growth in the same. He added that the company would focus on increasing customers and usage and giving more benefits to them to upgrade in the FND category.

Difference between health drinks and functional nutritional drinks

For years in India, malt-based beverages have been popularly referred to as health drinks. These products enhance the taste of milk, besides offering some nutritional benefits.

On April 2, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) asked e-commerce Food Business Operators (FBOs) to ensure appropriate categorisation of the food products which are sold on their respective websites. The move came after it noted instances of dairy-based beverage mixes, cereal-based beverage mixes or malt-based beverages, which are licensed under ‘Proprietary Food’, being sold on e-commerce websites under categories like ‘Health Drink’, ‘Energy Drink’ and others.

It clarified that the term ‘Health Drink’ is not defined or standardised anywhere under the FSS Act 2006 or in the rules/regulations made thereunder.

According to FSSAI, the term ‘Energy’ drinks is permitted to be used only for products that are licensed under Food Category System (FCS) and (Carbonated and Non-carbonated water-based flavoured drinks), standardised under sub-regulation 2.10.6 (2) of Food Product Standards and Food Additives Regulations 2011 (Caffeinated Beverage).

Proprietary Foods are food items not standardised under various FSSAI regulations but use standardised ingredients. The reason behind the decision was to “enhance clarity and transparency regarding the nature and functional properties of the products,” the statement said.

FSSAI wants to ensure that consumers can make well-informed choices while buying a product without encountering misleading information. This comes amid ongoing debates regarding the sugar levels in popular malt-based beverages being sold in the country.

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