‘Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you, ’ ACCC asks: ‘Where do you come from, my lovely!’
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd (Maggie Beer Products) in which the brand, owned by celebrity cook Maggie Beer, acknowledges that its conduct was likely to have been misleading, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The undertaking relates to Maggie Beer Products’ place of origin representations on the labelling of “Maggie Beer” branded Ice cream (all flavours), Aged Red Wine Vinegar, Extra virgin olive oil and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits; representations made at a Local Fair held at a Woolworths Limited (Woolworths) supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia; and representations made in correspondence sent by Maggie Beer Products to Woolworths.
“Maggie Beer” branded Ice cream (all flavours), Extra virgin olive oil and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits are manufactured by third parties in Victoria, while “Maggie Beer” branded Aged Red Wine Vinegar is manufactured by a third party in Queensland.
However, since at least 2011, the following text and logo has been on the labelling of these products, in close proximity to each other:
- the “Maggie Beer” logo which depicts a pheasant with the words “Maggie Beer A Barossa Food Tradition”;
- the words “Made in Australia” or “Product of Australia”; and
- the words “Maggie Beer Products: 2 Keith Street Tanunda South Australia 5352”.
The ACCC considered that as a result of these representations in close proximity on the labels, a reasonable consumer would have gained the overall impression that each of these products was manufactured in Tanunda, the Barossa Valley and/or South Australia, when in fact this was not the case.
Representations made at Woolworths “Local Fair” and in correspondence with supermarket
In addition, Maggie Beer Products made representations to the public during a “Local Fair” held at a Woolworths supermarket in Mitcham, South Australia in April 2013 that its Ice cream and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits were made in South Australia or were otherwise “local” products, when that was not the case.
Further, Maggie Beer Products made representations in correspondence with Woolworths that its Ice cream, Aged red wine vinegar, Extra virgin olive oil and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits were made in South Australia or were otherwise “local” products, when this was not the case.
Maggie Beer Products has acknowledged that its product labelling, representations to the public at the “Local Fair” and representations to Woolworths were likely to have contravened sections 18 and 29(1)(k) of the ACL.
“Consumers are often willing to pay premium prices for local products and businesses are following consumer demand by stocking local goods,” said Rod Sims, ACCC Chairman. “Protecting the integrity of credence claims made about food products is a priority enforcement area for the ACCC,” he said.
“The Barossa Valley is a nationally recognised premium food and wine destination, and businesses in that region use place of origin claims to promote or distinguish their product from others in the market,” Mr Sims said.
“Misleading representations about the origin of products to capitalise on this demand undermines the integrity of credence claims which are relied on by consumers and, equally important, can harm competing producers whose products are made locally,” Mr Sims said.
Maggie Beer Products to amend its labelling
Maggie Beer Products has cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and, as part of the undertaking, will amend its labelling so that the place of manufacture for products made outside of South Australia is made clear to consumers. It will also shortly publish an educative article in Food Magazine.
The ACCC said this matter came to the its attention independently of the recent ACCC investigation concerning Maggie Beer’s daughter Saskia Beer and her company Barossa Farm Produce (ACCC MR 144/14).