FoodTech

Ruling on Product Labeling Regarding NotCo’s NotMilk, a Chilean Alternative Foods Manufacturing Company

Jan 21, 2024

Ruling on Product Labeling Regarding NotCo’s NotMilk, a Chilean Alternative Foods Manufacturing Company

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The first half of the article is an explanation of the following information, which was previously published in an article.

Discussion on how to label alternative dairy products

This time, according to an article in vegconomist, NotCo, a Chilean company that produces plant-based alternative foods, has received some positive news after it recently filed an appeal against a court ruling prohibiting the use of the NotMilk trademark in its home country. Namely, the Valdivia Court of Appeals has reversed the first instance decision and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Los Rios Regional Milk Producers Association, which accused NotCo of unfair competition for using the name milk for a plant-derived product.

The lawsuit against NotCo began in 2020, and last May the court ruled in favor of the dairy union, ordering it to stop any branding or image associated with the dairy industry, according to the report.

However, NotCo fought back and submitted a survey by Cadem, one of the country’s leading market research and polling firms, at the appeals court, showing that 99% of consumers understand that NotMilk is not milk, despite the word “milk” appearing in the branding and packaging. The study showed that 99% of consumers understand that NotMilk is not milk. .

This time the Court of Appeals stated that according to the information provided by the parties, NotCo’s advertising campaign clearly states that its product is not milk, even if there are some similarities. The court also added in its legal brief that milk consumers probably prefer natural products and may not choose beverages made from vegetables and artificial intelligence, such as Notmilk.

Recently, there has been a significant development in the ongoing controversy surrounding the labeling of plant-based products with traditional animal product terms such as “milk,” “ham,” and “tuna.”

First, Oatly recently won a four-year legal battle with British Dairy for the use of the word “milk.” Then there was news of the Belgian government’s decision to put an end to the “vegetable wars” by allowing plant-based products to bear the names of meat products such as “vegan burgers” and “vegan steaks.”

Most recently, after a five-year legal battle, the French Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Nutrition & Santé Group (owners of Gerblé, Céréal, ValpiBio, and Valpiform), which had been accused by the meat lobby group Interbev (Association). The court ruled in favor of the Nutrition & Santé Group (owners of Gerblé, Céréal, ValpiBio and Valpiform).

Regarding unfair competition and misleading plant-based meat labels, the court found no established risk of confusion between “steak” and “vegetable steak.” In the court’s view, consumers can distinguish between different categories if packaging and advertising “clearly” indicate that the product is of plant origin, French media reported.

From the Chilean ruling on NotCo and the discussion in the UK last March, I personally feel that the trend is a tailwind for alternative protein and plant-based food tech companies. It seems that the judiciary has decided, albeit somewhat broadly, that what is important is the consumer’s perspective, and as long as consumers themselves are not causing confusion, there is no problem.

Reference article:

“NotCo is Officially NotGuilty” – Chilean Unicorn Defeats Dairy Union as Court Allows ‘Milk ‘ on NotMilk Labels

Setback for French Government as Court Supports Plant-Based Meat and Rejects Label Confusion