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Woolworths denies that it copied Superlatte products




Woolworths has categorically denied allegations by Michelle Legge, who founded beverage company Superlatte in 2016, that the retailer has copied her product.


Carin Smith | Fin24

In a blog that was widely shared on social media, Legge writes that her business was self-funded and experienced "a long and tough first year" after which the business started to look promising.

She said she launched three drinks into the SA market, namely a turmeric, beetroot and matcha latte powder blend. She admits that the launch coincided with a global trend around turmeric and "rainbow" lattes.

She says she discovered in June 2017 that Woolworths had also launched the "superfood latte" concept on its café menu, calling it Super Lattes. She claims it has "striking similarities" to her brand.

Yet, she decided not to take "action" against Woolworths, because she "was discouraged and intimidated by their size and realised that legally, they were within their rights".

Legge further admits that, as far as the latte flavours went, it is "nearly impossible to copyright a recipe, and there were a couple of variations in the Woolworths version".

In her view, the Woolworths Super Lattes taste "inferior" to her Superlatte blends. She claims that consumers confuse her brand with what's on offer at Woolworths.

"So what's the bottom line here? In 2019, turmeric lattes and the like are hardly a unique concept. We don't 'own' the trend nor the flavour combinations, but we do own our name," writes Legge.

"Supporting the local start-ups Woolworths finds so inspiring would be a good start. But for now, perhaps Woolworths could consider a menu refresh?"

International trend

According to Woolworths, it first noticed an international trend of "superfood" lattes - also known as rainbow lattes, super lattes or unicorn lattes - in 2016.

"We refer to these 'superfood' drinks as Super Lattes on our beverage menu, based on research on how it is sold across the world and because the term 'super latte' is descriptive of lattes that contain components of what is generally referred to as 'superfoods'," Woolworths said in a statement in response to a query by Fin24.
 
According to Woolworths, its supplier has been producing powdered and rooibos-based drinks since 2005 and has extensive powdered drinks expertise and heritage.

"In April 2017, following extensive trials and tastings of turmeric, beetroot, matcha and other flavours, we launched commercial production of this product and introduced them in our WCAFES in May 2017," said Woolworths.
 
Woolworths said that, because Legge and Superlatte have not made contact with the retailer previously, it was first made aware of the Superlatte products and Legge's concerns through her blog posted in February 2019.
 
"We remain deeply committed to small businesses in South Africa. More than 90% of our food products are sourced and/or produced locally," said Woolworths.




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