Supreme Court of Appeal battle to decide if term ‘butter spread’ is misleading

Stork and Clover are involved in a court battle over butter spread. Picture: File

Stork and Clover are involved in a court battle over butter spread. Picture: File

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Pretoria – The battle over butter turned in the Supreme Court of Appeal, with the judges of this court having to apply the law as to whether household brand Stork’s “butter spread” was misleading the public into thinking that they are actually buying butter.

Siqalo Foods (the appellant) is in the business of margarine spreads and its product line includes the Stork range. Clover (the respondent) manufactures and sells a modified butter product under its registered trade mark, Butro.

Clover won the butter battle earlier in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, when the company complained that Siqalo Foods was marketing and selling a product as a butter product, when it was in fact a modified butter product.

The high court earlier interdicted Siqalo Foods from passing off its spread as butter and thus unlawfully competing with them.

Aggrieved with this verdict, Siqalo Foods took the matter on appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Clover, in its legal bid over Siqalo Foods’s Stork Butter Spread, said this was definitely not butter. According to Clover, the labelling misrepresents that it is pure butter and not a modified butter product. Clover – in the high court and now – won its battle to stop the owners of Stork using the word “butter” on the presentation of this spread.

Clover maintained that by claiming this was a form of butter, its rival contravened the Agricultural Products Act and the regulations relating to the classification, packaging and marketing of dairy products and imitation-related products.

Clover argued that the prominent word “butter” in relation to the spread constituted unlawful competition and mislead the public into thinking it was a form of butter.

According to Clover, Siqalo Foods sold a medium fat product using the words “Stork butter spread” boldly on its product label, which it said negatively affected Clover’s commercial interests.

In fighting for its butter spread, the appellant argued it had done market research on consumer awareness on the differences between “butter” and “modified butter” products and consumers were well aware of the difference, thus they were not being misled.

The Supreme Court said it is not in dispute that the product is not butter, but something entirely different – namely, a modified butter.

Butter is a primary dairy product, derived from or manufactured solely from milk. It may not contain any animal, vegetable or marine fat.

By contrast, modified butter merely has the general appearance of butter, but it is not pure butter. It is an imitation of butter. The product comprises a blend of 62% plant oils (fats) and other ingredients, but only 38% primary dairy product.

The Supreme Court turned down the appeal.

Pretoria News