Fonterra, the New Zealand-based dairy giant, has started legal action against Bega Cheese over the Australian group’s moves to rebrand some of its products after last year’s acquisition of assets from Mondelez International.
Under a deal signed between the two companies in 2011, Fonterra has what it says is an “exclusive licence for the Bega brand within Australia”. The businesses’ partnership goes even further back, with their first deal in 1983.
In January last year, Bega Cheese acquired a clutch of its Australian and New Zealand grocery brands from Mondelez, including the Vegemite, ZoOsh and Bonox brands, as well as other products that use the Kraft brand under licence, such as peanut butter and processed cheese.
Since then, Bega Cheese has reportedly moved to change the branding on some of the products. It has, for example, rebranded Kraft peanut butter to Bega The Good Nut peanut butter.
The changes have angered Fonterra, which has lodged papers in the state of Victoria.
“Fonterra considers Bega Cheese Limited’s recent move to re-brand its new grocery portfolio under the Bega brand is in breach of the terms of our agreement with them. Bega Cheese Limited disputes this,” the company told just-food.
“Fonterra continues to exclusively sell and market Bega cheese products in Australia. Since 1983, we’ve turned Bega into a AUD230m (US$181.1m) brand and one of the leading cheese brands in the dairy case. We’ve done this through investing heavily in the brand, in new product innovation and in marketing.”
Officials at Bega Cheese were asked for comment but had not returned that request at the time of writing.