Nestle has withdrawn a special range of KitKats in India which featured images of sacred Hindu deities on the wrapper, after accusations of hurting religious sentiments.
The limited range of the well-known chocolate bar had been launched as part of the global “KitKat travel breaks” range, where photos of artwork by local artisans were printed on the wrappers.
But the Indian version of the range, which was designed to celebrate the crafts of the Indian state of Odisha, provoked an online backlash as they featured images of Hindu deities Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Mata Subhadra.
Many expressed outrage that the wrappers might end up in “dustbins, drains, gutters” or trodden underfoot, which would be disrespectful of the gods and the Hindu faith.
As Hindu nationalism has been on the rise in India, there has been a heightened sensitivity towards the depiction of the Hindu faith in the public sphere and recent accusations of hurting religious sentiments have been levelled at books, films, TV shows and advertisements.
Nestle said the intention had been to “celebrate the culture of Odisha with designs on packs representing ‘Pattachitra’, an art form uniquely identifiable by its vivid imagery”.
Nestle said that as “pre-emptive action”, it had now recalled the KitKat range from the market.
“We wanted to encourage people to know about the art and its artisans. We do understand the sensitivity of the matter and regret if we have inadvertently hurt people’s sentiments,” the company said in a statement.
It is not the first time the KitKat travel range has landed Nestle in hot water. Last year Nestle apologised for packaging that incorrectly depicted Lamjao National Park to be in the state of Meghalaya rather than Manipur, and featured a red panda, a species not found in the park.