The brouhaha over the fairness cream controversy, which led to a name change of Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) flagship product, does not seem to have impacted its sales.
In July 2020, HUL renamed its flagship skin care brand Fair & Lovely as Glow & Lovely after fairness products came under social pressure amid a global debate about racial inequality.
Dealers, distributors and brand experts claim that sales numbers have not come down ‘at all’ despite the name change.
“Hardcore loyalists of Fair & Lovely (now Glow & Lovely) know what the name has changed to. So, it is unlikely that sales would have got affected. They have very loyal customers,” said Pavan Padaki, branding coach and consultant.
Dealers and distributors say that they have been distributing the same quantity as they used to sell before the name change. This trend indicates that the demand has remained unaffected.
“We used to supply 12 cartons to 20 shops in the pin codes that I deal with. The orders have remained unchanged after the change of name,” said a Mumbai-based distributor.
When Moneycontrol reached out to HUL to know whether sales have picked up or remained unchanged, the company spokesperson said: “As a policy, we do not share brand sales figures.”
However, on the question of what feedback the company has been receiving after the name change, the spokesperson said: “The new packs and communication have just gone into the market, and early consumer response is welcoming the change. Research over the years and even now indicates ‘Glow’ resonates strongly with our consumers.”
What the new pack says
Moneycontrol visited a couple of supermarkets in South Mumbai to see how the new pack looks like and the placement of the product.
We found that the old stock was also kept right next to the new stock. We also observed that the company has used the same font size on the pack to say ‘Fair & Lovely’ is now ‘Glow & Lovely’.
When asked if the company is allowed use the old name on the pack and if old stock continues to stay in stores, N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, a consumer analytics and brand insights company, said: “Since the company themselves had made a choice to change the name, they can do what they want. Old stock in stores is retained because the old stock will have to be depleted first.”
Glow & Lovely accounts for 80 percent of the fairness cream market in India, and is one of HUL’s most successful cosmetics lines.
“The new stock reached us by end of August or so. We have exhausted the first two lots and have ordered the third one,” said Naresh Tiwari, store manager of Reliance Super Mart in South Mumbai.
Brand experts pointed out that HUL had introduced Fair & Lovely to the market in the 70s, and, since then, it has been one of the most successful products of the company.
Why the name change
In June 2020, Johnson & Johnson decided to stop selling skin-whitening creams popular in Asia and the Middle East, after such products came under social pressure amid a global debate about racial inequality.
The company stopped selling its Clean & Clear Fairness line of products, sold in India.
While experts called it a ‘bold and ethical move’, other brands did not curb production and instead opted for a name change.
A slew of cosmetic brands came under the scanner for promoting skin fairness for stereotyping racial types that intensified further in the wake of the 'Black Lives Matter
' movement in the West.