Unilever stirs debate for admitting using different indigents in Chinese and European ice-cream products
Published: Aug 20, 2021 04:59 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Unilever on Friday sparked heated debate among Chinese netizens, after it came to light that an executive of the British consumer giant admitted using different ingredients in its Magnum ice-cream products in Chinese and European markets.

The materials it used for Chinese market are cheaper, according to industry insiders.

A major difference between the products is Unilever's use of milk powder in making Magnum ice creams for the Chinese market, instead of the concentrated skim milk for the same brand products in Europe, Zeng Xiwen, global vice-president of Unilever, told Chinese media earlier this month, responding to a consumer's query in late July.

Zeng's remark went viral on China's Twitter-like Weibo on Friday, with a related topic attracting over 400 million views within hours. 

Many users tagged "double standards for ingredients" in Magnum products. "I won't buy Magnum anymore if it continues to supply the Chinese market with cheaper ingredients," one wrote.

Some users took the chance to complain about the "artificially high" price of Magnum products. "A Magnum-brand ice cream is sold at 7-10 yuan, more expensive than most domestic brands," one user said. "Magnum isn't worth the price."

Zeng explained that the company uses milk powder instead of concentrated milk in making Magnum products, partly because milk powder is more "stable" and easier to transport, allowing the company to support large-scale production.

Zeng denied that Chinese consumers were being offered lesser quality ice creams. "We spend 11-percent more chocolate in making Magnum products for Chinese markets than for European ones," he wrote on Weibo on August 5.

The cost price of reconstituted milk (made with milk powder and water) is 3,000-4,000 yuan ($461.4-615.2) lower than per ton that of concentrated milk, said Song Liang, an expert from the China State Farm Dairy Alliance (CSFDA). 

With the same amount of protein, the cost of reconstituted milk and concentrated milk is roughly 8,000-10,000 yuan and 13,000-14,000 respectively, Song introduced in a China Central Television (CCTV) program in August.

Global Times