Keeping an eye on the competition poses its challenges

With consumer goods and products worth billions in sales around the world, the right to protect distinctive branding or designs for ranges is highly understandable, whatever sector of industry you operate in.

The sweets, snacks and bakery worlds are no different on this hot topic, yet it seems there have been a steadily growing number of cases in which chocolate firms in particular have been seeking to ensure the distinctiveness of their ranges against an ever growing and competitive marketplace.

Some of the most significant cases to emerge have included Mondelez owned Toblerone and its bid to prevent a British rival producing a similar-named peaked chocolate bar, which clearly took its lead from the Swiss produced confectionery range, M&S’s battle with Aldi over “Colin the Caterpillar regarding ownership rights, through to Cadbury’s ultimately failed bid to extend its patents relating to purple packaging, it’s an issue that’s not going away in a hurry.

In the past week, the latest such case to emerge has again involved Mondelez, and snacks brand Primal Pantry, with the major confectionery business issuing legal warnings to the British business regarding its rival’s use of lilac tones on a bar range – which the firm denied was inspired by the major corporation’s Milka chocolate range.

The dispute was billed as a classic David v Goliath case, and it seems after the initial storm that emerged over it with ‘cease and desist’ letters being issued, the US-headquartered business says it is now in active discussion with the parent company concerned, Nurture Foods, which remains adamant that it is not at fault.

You can judge for yourselves in this post’s main image – do they look similar in tone to you? It would be hard to see how anyone would claim that they’re a very close match colour-wise, and there is certainly no issue over the actual nature of the product, or indeed its physical design. So the concerns at stake here seem harder to fathom.

While it’s certainly true that being distinctive and having a USP is exceptionally valuable in an age of many areas of our lives having a very similar feel in terms of product ranges, yet a strong level of competition and diversity has to be embraced if any market is to preserve its vitality and engage with ever-more extensive demands from customers.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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Confectionery Production