Retailers accused over rising rates of ‘parasitic’ packaging

Retail giants such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Boots are among retailers accused of launching an avalanche of products in packaging very similar in design to that of familiar branded products.

Charlie body spray versus Tesco body spray

The British Brands Group this week claimed there had been a 60% increase in the past year in the number of new identikit own-label products. Among examples in its report is Tesco’s mySenses, a new shampoo range bearing an uncanny resemblance to Clairol’s Herbal Essences.

Boots was named as a persistent producer of copycat brands, while Sainsbury’s was said to have produced a lookalike of Dorset Cereals.

The report claims both retailers and rival brands have been using the tactic more despite high-profile cases including Diageo’s successful actions against Sainsbury’s over its own-label Pimm’s alternative Pitchers, and the owners of Vodkat, Intercontinental Brands.

It claims the OFT and Trading Standards do not have the resources or incentive to enforce existing regulations.

John Noble, director of the British Brands Group, said: “The examples are too similar to have been designed by accident.

“Shoppers are likely to be misled and certainly the distinctiveness of the brand is destroyed. This is a long running sore in the UK, affecting companies of all sizes in many sectors.

“The rules designed to protect consumers are just not being enforced, while brand owners do not have effective tools to prevent the practice themselves.”


A recent study undertaken for the European Commission found that there was considerable inconsistency in remedies across Europe.

It also found the UK’s law of passing off had some significant limitations when it comes to taking action against such copying, with the result that a copy actionable in one European country may not be actionable in the UK.

The British Brands Group said it is calling on Government to provide companies with effective tools to make sure product packaging is not misleadingly similar.

It said: “This would result in better informed shoppers, less confusion in the marketplace and a better environment in which companies can invest in new and better products. Such tools are long overdue.”



  1. What’s the problem? The public are NOT as stupid as this study suggests, howver the results are hardly a surprise considering who commissioned the work. Joe Public can choose to take a risk and but may be pleasantly surprised by the performance of the alternative products, instead of vastly over-priced brands. Why are the big brands so scared of competition?

  2. As David says the public are not stupid – however on an average shop it is known that the average consumer makes a decision in less than one second to purchase a recognisable product – with the two parameters of colour and shape being key to the decision. Large Brands spend considerable sums of money developing recognisable packaging and brand awareness to differentiate their products against the competition – Question – would Joe Public take the \risk\ if it wasnt a copycat – probably not, are they \ pleasantly surprised\ invariably no.