HUL manufactures brands such as Lifebuoy and Dove and claims to be India’s largest Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company.
According to the company, it had been receiving criticism over social media that it was trying to profit from a health crisis.
“We would like to state that this is completely false. We have not increased prices of soaps after the outbreak of COVID- 19 in India, especially when people need hygiene products the most,” said the company in a statement.
The firm noted that while it did increase the prices of its soaps in January 2020, it was because of the rising price of palm oil and not an opportunistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The price of palm oil, a key ingredient for soaps, has been increasing for many months, and at the end of 2019, was up over 25%. Therefore, in January 2020, we increased prices of our soaps by 5% to 6% across our brands: Lux, Lifebuoy, Dove, Hamam, Liril and Pears.”
It highlighted that this was shared with the media during its quarterly earnings call on January 31.
“The price hikes landed in the market in February, which was well before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.”
The company added that it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to ensure consumers have access to its range of hygiene products.
“We are also ramping up the distribution and production of our hygiene brands whilst working with the government to increase awareness on proper hygiene by washing hands with soap or use of sanitisers,” said the firm.
Playing its part
Following the clarification, HUL announced on Mar 21 that it has committed INR100 crores (USD13.3m) to help the nation fight against coronavirus.
As part of its relief efforts, the firm will be reducing the price of Lifebuoy sanitizers, Lifebuoy Liquid handwash and Domex floor cleaners by 15%.
According to the firm, these price-reduced products are currently in production and would be available in the market in the next few weeks.
“HUL has also ramped up the production of Lifebuoy sanitisers, Lifebuoy Handwash liquid and Domex Floor Cleaners and is committed to scaling it up even further in the coming weeks,” it added.
HUL said it would donate 20,000,000 pieces of Lifebuoy soaps in the next few months and provide partner medical institutions with free supplies of sanitation and hygiene products such as hand sanitizers, bar soaps and floor cleaners.
Additionally, it pledged INR10 crores (USD1.3m) to upgrade the health care facilities in testing centres and hospitals.
Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and managing director of HUL said: “In a crisis like this companies have a big role to play. We are working closely with the governments and our partners to ensure that we overcome this global health crisis together.”