Supermarket giant Tesco has recently come under intense scrutiny for its use of fictional farm names.
The range, branded with fake suppliers such as “Willow Farms”, replaces its ‘Everyday Value’ branding, itself a reincarnation of ‘Tesco Value’. Whilst some have taken objection, claiming there is no need to create fictitious names when there are so many real farms who supply Tesco, the argument presented by Tesco is, in our view, very reasonable.
The principal function of the new branding approach is to make clear to consumers that the food’s provenance is British. Tesco is supplied by numerous farms, large and small. Our view is that, from both a morality and fair dealing perspective, it is worse to single out a ‘real’ farm and pretend that all products are sourced from that location. Tesco has chosen to level the playing field and create a series of fictitious farms.
There is nothing wrong with Tesco’s approach from an intellectual property perspective. Only when a company takes some step to misrepresent the product or confuse customers do problems arise.
Marks and Spencer have been carrying out this practice for over 10 years, with Lochmuir salmon being sourced from 5 different fish farms across Scotland. Lochmuir itself is an entirely fictional body of water. M&S’ Oakham chicken follows the same principle, and attracted no public uproar aside from the grumbles of an MP whose constituency included the Oakham area near Birmingham.
The supermarket giant is upping its marketing strategy in an attempt to compete with low price stores Aldi and Lidl. Whilst the public might think Woodside pork comes from a place called Woodside, they would also assume Woodside to be in the UK. Tesco has explained that all meat sold under the fake name is British and that, ironically, the names assist consumers in understanding where their food comes from.
In our view, Tesco’s new marketing strategy is not worth getting excited about and using fake names to sell own-brand products is simply no longer ‘Only at M&S’.
Caroline Pigott is a specialist Intellectual Property, Technology and Media Solicitor. We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we might meet your needs. Call Caroline on 0131 225 8705 or email firstname.lastname@example.org