There is only one question that a manufacturer has to answer before she shouts Eureka. Can she prove it? Especially when it is a food product that claims to offer relief to two of the most widely prevalent lifestyle diseases—high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Dressed in blue and white, colour coordinated with cans of Fortune Vivo oil, Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra (whose healthy diet and lean body have also made news) promoted Vivo as an oil that offered relief to diabetes patients and wellness to the health conscious. Standing next to her, Adani Wilmar’s chief executive Atul Chaturvedi and chief operating officer Angshu Mallick looked pleased with themselves for having launched Fortune brand’s first blended oil.
A joint venture between Adani Enterprises and Singapore’s Wilmar Group, Adani Wilmar already had the status of a market leader in edible oils with about 19% of the market share in 2016. With eight pure oils sold under the Fortune brand, Fortune Vivo, the ninth one, is a blend of 20% cold-pressed unrefined sesame oil and 80% physically refined rice bran oil. It was supposed to be the company’s trump card. Because the oil combination, it claimed, was unique and could miraculously reduce high blood sugar level, improve insulin sensitivity and lower high blood pressure. It expected the new brand to add 2-3% to its existing Rs 8,883 crore revenue and later in the year said it’d invest Rs 600 crore in a new oil processing plant in Odisha.
That was in February 2016. A year later, in January, the Ahmedabad City Civil Court pricked the claim bubble of the edible oil magnate when it said, “Fortune Vivo diabetes care oil with health claim is misleading with ambiguity, and it will affect the health of the general public.” The court ruling came in favour of the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI), which Adani Wilmar had dragged to court when the former called its bluff on the claims.
For those who follow the industry, the past year has seen India’s largest edible oil company slug it out with regulators and consumer watchdogs. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has slapped Fortune Vivo with numerous notices and is now investigating multiple complaints.
The boldness of its claim, the flimsiness of its evidence and the grandeur of its marketing may have singled out Adani Wilmar but it is not the only brand staking health claims. Oil companies are increasingly adding labels with claims they cannot deliver.