In today’s Finshots, we tell you why Cadbury is in the news for all the wrong reasons and whether its iconic Bournvita is a sugar trap

The Story

A few days ago, Revant Himatsingka, a young man who goes by the moniker Food Pharmer, turned to Instagram to create a short video. It was about one of Cadbury’s brands — Bournvita. He questioned the sugar content in what’s touted as a health drink. He even suggested changing the tagline from ‘Tayyari jeet ki’ (Preparation to win) to ‘Tayyari diabetes ki’ (Preparing for diabetes).

The video got the eyeballs. 12 million hits. After all, Bournvita is a much-loved brand in India that has been around for decades. Heck, in 1972, it even began sponsoring what would go on to become one of India’s most popular quiz shows for school students that was telecast on TV. Bournvita is a household name.

Obviously, people were concerned about the diabetes claims.

On the other hand, Cadbury was fuming. They issued a statement refuting the claims. But they didn’t stop at that. They also marshalled the legal heft at their disposal and sent a notice to Himatsingka. He deleted the video. Even issued an apology.

But here’s the thing. Cadbury might have shot itself in the foot here. They could’ve just let the video run its course. Sure, it got 12 million views but all the chatter dies down eventually. Brands see this happening all the time.

But the news of Cadbury going the legal route has brought even more attention to the matter. It’s going spectacularly viral. On WhatsApp groups. On social media. On every newspaper available in the country.

In a way, it was a case of what’s popularly known as the Streisand Effect. A phrase coined by Mike Masnick. See, in 2003, American singer and actress Barbra Streisand discovered that someone had captured photos of her home in California and published them on a website called Pictopia.

You can imagine that Streisand wasn’t pleased. She felt the photo was invading her privacy. So she sued the photographer and the website for $50 million.

But here’s the thing. Before she filed the case, hardly anyone had viewed the picture of her home. No one knew it was there as part of the collection of the California coast. In fact, it had only been downloaded and viewed 4 times. But when news of her lawsuit went public, everyone wanted to see this photo. People rushed to download the image, copy it, and publish it on multiple websites.

Streisand made an effort to hide the image. But it only brought more visibility. And so, whenever a company or person falls into a similar trap these days, we just call it the Streisand Effect. Something that Cadbury is probably experiencing now.

Anyway, is Himatsingka’s big reveal true or not?

Let’s say that this isn’t the first time someone’s questioned the health benefits of these ‘malt-based’ drinks.

A few years ago, a group called Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) asked Amitabh Bachchan to discontinue his association with Horlicks due to its high sugar content.

Also, here's a headline from an article published in The Print in 2018 — “Health drinks like Bournvita, Horlicks give your kids more sugar & hardly any nutrition.” It’s still up there on the website. So it doesn’t seem like Cadbury really had a problem with that.

But we decided to do some digging ourselves (please don’t sue us, anyone!). And we looked at the ingredients on a pack listed on Amazon. You’ll see that 100g of Bournvita contains 37g of sugar. That seems like a crazy amount at first glance, but Bournvita recommends a serving size of 20g. That means around 6.5g of sugar goes into the system.

Side note: You'll find something else at the bottom of the ingredient list though. A line that says total Sugars that go up to 73g/100g too. Why's that the case? Well, some ingredients might have naturally occurring sugars. Such as the sugar present in milk and malt. So maybe it's prudent to look at this total as well instead of just relying on the declared sugar content in the box.

Is that a bad thing?

We’re not the experts, so we looked at what the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had to say. And we found a report from 2015 which said that they believe people can consume up to 30g of sugar in a day.

So one cup of Bournvita makes up roughly 20% of this upper cap that ICMR suggests. But this figure isn’t tuned for kids. So maybe it’s not all that accurate.

There’s another way to look at it too. And that’s as a percentage of calories consumed.

Now the standard calorific intake that everyone seems to agree on is 2,000 calories daily. And the World Health Organization recommends that keeping sugars to just 5% of this is the right way to do it. That means, roughly 100 calories from sugar is okay.

Now 1g of sugar is roughly 4 calories. And that means, 6.5g of sugar from a serving of Bournvita is about 26 calories. It’s a fourth of the daily limit.

Now we don’t have any comments on whether this is good or bad. So we’ll let you be the judge of that. Just remember that these are 'health' drinks. Although, it does bring back one key issue. You really can’t expect people to crunch numbers and figure things out before they make every purchase right?

Companies really have to make it easier for people to understand the pros and cons of their products. That’s why the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been pushing for some sort of a star system that’ll indicate details about sugar, protein etc right at the front of the pack itself. A snapshot that will help people make better food choices. But so far, it has been slow going on this front. The rules aren’t still in place despite years of trying.

Also, the hue and cry over this does raise one other question — What about those fanciful claims that these health drinks and supplements make?

For instance, one of the claims that Bournvita makes is about its ‘inner strength formula’ to develop brains, bones, and muscles.

Now, the CEO of FSSAI said to The Ken (in a story about zero-added sugar products), “A company cannot make claims that are therapeutic in nature if it has not submitted the scientific evidence backing them to the regulator for prior approval.”

So we can assume that Bournavita’s claims fall under this ambit too, right?

And the FSSAI has pulled up Cadbury in the past for making claims about Bournvita triggering better brain development in kids. Complan has been questioned for saying it’ll help children grow faster. So we’re hoping that these claims made by Bournvita are backed by evidence submitted to FSSAI.

But here is the bottom line — at the end of the day, the onus is on you as the consumer. You have to figure out for yourself what’s worth putting into your body or not. No one is coming to your rescue.

Until then…

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Ditto Insights: Why Millennials should buy a term plan

According to a survey, only 17% of Indian millennials (25–35 yrs) have bought term insurance. The actual numbers are likely even lower.

And the more worrying fact is that 55% hadn’t even heard of term insurance!

So why is this happening?

One common misconception is the dependent conundrum. Most millennials we spoke to want to buy a term policy because they want to cover their spouse and kids. And this makes perfect sense. After all, in your absence you want your term policy to pay out a large sum of money to cover your family’s needs for the future. But these very same people don’t think of their parents as dependents even though they support them extensively. I remember the moment it hit me. I routinely send money back home, but I had never considered my parents as my dependents. And when a colleague spoke about his experience, I immediately put two and two together. They were dependent on my income and my absence would most certainly affect them financially. So a term plan was a no-brainer for me.

There’s another reason why millennials should probably consider looking at a term plan — Debt. Most people we spoke to have home loans, education loans and other personal loans with a considerable interest burden. In their absence, this burden would shift to their dependents. It’s not something most people think of, but it happens all the time.

Finally, you actually get a pretty good bargain on term insurance prices when you’re younger. The idea is to pay a nominal sum every year (something that won’t burn your pocket) to protect your dependents in the event of your untimely demise. And this fee is lowest when you’re young.

So if you’re a millennial and you’re reading this, maybe you should reconsider buying a term plan. And don’t forget to talk to us at Ditto while you’re at it. We only have a limited number of slots everyday, so make sure you book your appointment at the earliest:

1. Just head to our website by clicking on the link here

2. Click on “Book a FREE call”

3. Select Term Insurance

4. Choose the date & time as per your convenience and RELAX