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Beer brewers in a froth over ‘Lite’ labels

| Wine and liquor

What’s in the packaging? A lot it would seem as the battle between the beers brews, with distributors of Castle Lite taking on its rival, Amstel Lite, claiming that Amstel Lite copied the packaging of Castle Lite cans in a way that is confusing to customers.

Brandhouse Beverages Ltd introduced Amstel Lite in August last year in a market where SA Breweries (SAB) had been marketing and selling its Castle Lite for several years.

Three months later, SAB lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the grounds that the Amstel Lite cans and six packs were packaged in a way they said copied the distinctive green and silver colours and presentation of their Castle Lite.

Aside from being confusing, they claimed that Amstel benefited from Castle Lite’s advertising goodwill.

SAB said it had conducted a consumer survey which found that the buyers of Castle Lite were indeed confused when confronted with the rival beer’s similar look.

But the validity of the survey is vigorously disputed by Brandhouse, as is the assertion that SAB had acquired goodwill and a commercially significant reputation in the packaging of its product.

It was also denied that Brandhouse Beverages had cashed-in on the alleged advertising goodwill.

The complaint was considered by the ASA which found Brandhouse had indeed transgressed the ASA code.

They were ordered to withdraw Amstel Lite packaging within three months of the ruling – a period which lapsed at the end of April.

Brandhouse lodged an appeal with ASA but the tribunal has not yet made a ruling.

Meanwhile, they turned to the high court in Pretoria in a bid to review the decision that they must change the packaging before the appeal is decided.

The applicant asked that it be allowed to continue distributing Amstel Lite as is, pending the outcome of the appeal ruling, which is said to be expected soon.

The applicant argued that if it were to adhere to the ruling and withdraw the packaging now it would suffer irreparable harm. They put the estimated the cost of changing the packaging at R100 million.

Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann noted that lodging an appeal against a finding did not not automatically suspend the finding pending the outcome of the appeal.

Because it is impossible to deal with the matter before the applicant found itself in default of the order, Bertelsmann ordered that the ruling be suspended until the ASA has delivered its decision on the appeal.

So, for now at least, both beers will continue to be sold with similar coloured packaging.

Pretoria News 

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