Just weeks after its much-heralded arrival in the UK, US yoghurt heavyweight Chobani is facing a potentially damaging lawsuit in the High Court over its right to use the term ‘Greek yoghurt’.
Fage, the Greek owner of the Total Greek Yoghurt brand, is suing Chobani because it wants it to stop describing the yoghurts it sells in the UK - and which are made in the US - as ‘Greek yoghurt’. Only yoghurt made in Greece should be called ‘Greek’, it argues - products made elsewhere should be described as ‘Greek-style’ instead.
As The Grocer went to press, Fage was seeking an interim injunction against Chobani, which would compel the company to withdraw its current packaging and stop referring to its product as ‘Greek’ until the High Court has made a final decision in the case. Chobani could also still face having to change its packaging further down the line, if the court ultimately sides with Fage.
Unlike Champagne or Parma ham, the term ‘Greek yoghurt’ does not have special protected status from the EU.
Fage declined to comment on its lawsuit against Chobani, but it is understood it is arguing consumers would understand the term ‘Greek yoghurt’ to be an indication of origin.
However, Chobani said ‘Greek’ simply referred to the straining process used to make its yoghurt. “Cheddar cheese is made all over the world, because it refers to a method of manufacture just like ‘Greek yoghurt’ denotes a yoghurt created using a straining process, not a product made in Greece, as Fage claims,” a spokeswoman said. “We will continue to oppose Fage’s attempt to narrowly define the term ‘Greek yoghurt,’ in what we see as a tactic to keep Chobani Greek Yoghurt out of the UK.”
Chobani is the biggest yoghurt brand in the US, worth about $1bn. It has been selling six variants in Tesco since September.
Rival US brand Greek Gods, made by Hain Daniels, will launch a Greek-style yoghurt in Sainsbury’s later this month.