‘Greek yoghurt’ has to be from Greece - that is the verdict in the legal battle between Total Greek Yoghurt maker Fage and US newcomer Chobani.
On Tuesday (26 March), Mr Justice Briggs granted Fage a permanent injunction against Chobani, which prohibits the company from marketing its US-made yoghurts as ‘Greek’ in the UK, and awarded Fage legal costs.
Fage had demonstrated there was “sufficient goodwill” associated with the term Greek yoghurt, and most consumers who bought it expected it to be made in Greece, the judge said. This was underlined by a “labelling convention” in the UK, which meant manufacturers of thick and creamy yoghurts not produced in Greece called their yoghurts ‘Greek-style’, he added.
Chobani calling its yoghurts ‘Greek’ therefore amounted to “misrepresentation”, Judge Briggs said. Chobani argued its yoghurt pots clearly stated the products were made in the US, but the judge said the information was in very small print and at the back of the pot.
The judge also said the Chobani executive leading the UK launch had been warned consistently by experts that labelling yoghurt as ‘Greek’ would be “taking at least a serious risk of misleading the buying public” but had pressed ahead. “He calculated the risk was justified by the commercial advantage of positioning Chobani’s product against Fage’s Greek yoghurt,” he added.
Fage UK MD Nigel Amos said he was “delighted” with the verdict, which had delivered the right outcome for consumers. “They rightly want to know the heritage of their food - its content, its nature and where it comes from,” he said.
Chobani said it remained convinced ‘Greek’ referred to a straining method and not a country of origin, and would appeal the court’s decision. Kate Szell, a partner at law firm Venner Shipley, said this would not be easy. “They can try to attack the survey evidence, but there is more to the decision than just the survey,” she said. “There is a possibility they might not even get leave to appeal.”