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GSK-Heinz battle set to take new turn

16-September-2004
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GSK-Heinz battle set to take new turn

The court battle between GlaxoSmithKline Consumer HealthCare Ltd (GSK) and Heinz India Ltd over a TV advertisement of the latter’s health drink in West Bengal is set to take a new turn.

Heinz, makers of health drink brand Complan, says that it will soon substantiate its claim that Complan has higher nutritional value than its competitors. The company is likely to produce documents endorsed by nutrition experts at the Calcutta High Court to this regard.

Heinz officials declined to comment on the issue as the matter is sub-judice. However, sources in the company pointed out that it has already 4-5 such extensive and analytical studies backed by eminent nutritionists who are also on the boards of several government organisations.

“As soon as GSK files its affidavit, we will produce 2-3 of these studies which clearly point out that Complan is richer in milk protein content when compared to its competitors,” a highly-placed Heinz official told FE.

The bone of contention between the two warring parties is an advertisement aired in regional Bengali TV channels where Complan claims it is much superior to health-drink brand “H” (an obvious reference to GSK’s Horlicks). GSK has dragged Heinz to court over the issue and also claims that it has so suffered a heavy loss in sale of Horlicks.

GSK had filed a suit seeking a decree for permanent injunction against the television advertisement campaign of Complan. The company has also claimed damages in excess of Rs 200 crore.

The Calcutta High Court has passed an interim injunction restraining Heinz from showing the advertisement across West Bengal. However, according to Heinz insiders, the court has permitted airing of a modified version of the advertisement which Heinz is currently showing.

“Leo Burnett, our advertising agency for the campaign, has modified the advertisement as per the instructions of the court. We have already started airing a new version of the ad,” a Heinz official said.

The official added that the modified advertisement will be both for the print and electronic media.

According to industry estimates, Horlicks has a marketshare of about 55%, against Complan’s 15% in the nutritional milk food segment in the country. The two health drink makers have been bitter competitors over the years and another legal battle over the supremacy of content of the two products is currently being fought at the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission since 1996-97.

GSK has alleged that in the ad campaign, Complan has made false and misleading claims that disparage Horlicks, thus causing grave prejudice and irreparable injury to GSK Consumer Healthcare.

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