(NETTAVISEN): Coop has launched new packaging for their own margarine “Bak & stek” from the brand Coop, and it did not go down well with Mills, which is behind the well-known Melange margarine.
Mills complained about the grocery chain to the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise’s competition committee, and at the end of September the case was processed. The reason is that Mills thinks Coop’s packaging is far too similar to Melange’s packaging.
It was a question of whether imitation of packaging design was contrary to the Marketing Act § 30 and action contrary to good business practice according to the Marketing Act § 25 in the grocery sector.
Mills responds that Coop has used the same colors as Melange’s packaging, and that the packaging is so similar. Mills is afraid Coop’s product will easily be confused with Melange when consumers pick up margarine from the shelf in the store.
“Coop has deliberately chosen a design expression that copies Melange, and which entails parasites on Mills’ accumulated goodwill, it says in the justification from Mills, which is documented through the minutes from the meeting of the Business and Industry Competition Committee.”
Melange has been on sale since 1919, and has thus been on the market for a long time compared to Coop’s “Bake & Roast”.
Coop, on the other hand, believes that there are clear differences between the two products, and that the choice of color is not in conflict with the Marketing Act or poses a risk of confusion.
They believe, among other things, that the color choice is based on a desire to signal which product it is, and that it is legitimate for Coop to use gold, yellow and green on the margarine package.
«The use of the center red Coop logo is also in line with Coop’s template for packaging design for its own brands. The logo clearly shows that this is Coop’s own product, and prevents the risk of confusion. Coop’s red logo and Mill’s fantasy animals are also different »
A majority in the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry’s competition committee, of those who considered the case, believe that Coop’s margarine is too similar to Melange.
“Coop’s margarine” Bak & stek “is an illegal imitation according to the Marketing Act § 30”, they write in the justification.
The majority believe that Melange margarine has an iconic design that has been incorporated over a number of years, and is the market leader in the margarine segment for cooking.
“Mills has over time been true to its design, and the marketing position that Mills has thereby achieved for the packaging entails an obligation for competitors to keep their distance,” they write further.
Mills also agrees that the way the colors are used on Coop’s margarine can lead consumers to confuse it with Melange. The majority believe it is a reprehensible imitation.
Only one person in the competition committee believed that Coop had not violated the Marketing Act. This is justified, among other things, by the fact that Coop has chosen to divide the product with a green square, as well as add design elements such as a spatula, rolling pin and stylized flowers, which distinguishes Coop and Mills’ designs.
“The average consumer will also miss Mills’ well-known logo Melange, and recognize Coop’s red logo, and understand that it is the grocery chain’s own brand. Although there is a strong inspiration and association with Melange, the condition of danger of confusion is not present “, it is stated in the justification for the minority’s assessment.
The majority, on the other hand, believe that the design elements of Coop’s margarine do not stand out enough, as this is designed as “stylistic stencils in the basic color of the margarine packaging, and therefore does not appear as distinctive elements”.
Will discuss adjustments
Bjørn Takle Friis, Communications Director at Coop, comments on the outcome to Nettavisen.
– We are surprised that the majority of the sample believes that the product “Bake and Roast” is too similar to Mills’ product. The only thing that is similar is the colors. In any case, it has never been Coop’s intention to emulate, he says to Nettavisen.
He says that they still understand that Mills is concerned about the competition from the product to Coop, as he believes it is of high quality and superiorly cheaper than Melange.
– We will now discuss what we do and whether we make any adjustments that meet the committee’s recommendations, he says, and adds:
– The product will in any case still be available to Coop’s customers at a very good price – no matter what the packaging will look like in the future.
Kjersti Johannessen, information manager at Mills, says that they are not interested in creating a major conflict in the media about this, but still comments on the conclusion of the Business and Industry Competition Committee.
– We are of course happy that they agree with us that the packaging is too similar to our traditional product Melange, she says to Nettavisen.
Johannessen says that they will now have a dialogue with Coop about what happens next.
– But we expect them to comply with the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry’s competition committee’s conclusion, she says.
She will not comment on Coop’s statements that Coop’s margarine “Bak & stek” is of high quality and superiorly cheaper than Melange.
– This is not about Coop developing its own product, but that the packaging is too similar. Melange is a Norwegian and traditional product and a clear market leader. It is the preferred choice of the consumer within the category, she says.