Own brands 'parasitic' says MP

Supermarket own-brand products are "parasitic" and a "deliberate attempt to exploit the efforts of others", a Labour MP has said.

Lewisham West and Penge MP Jim Dowd said "parasitic packaging", which critics say is aimed at misleading and confusing consumers into buying cheaper alternatives, needed to be curbed.

Speaking during the second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill in the Commons, he said: "We can all recall some of the most successful contemporary retailers have their own-name products - I won't name them - which mimic exactly the colours and the packaging of their more famous rivals.

"And actually, one of them in their television advertising, as I recall it, actually uses the slogan 'Like Brands, Only Cheaper'," said Mr Dowd.

"This is clearly a deliberate attempt to exploit the efforts of others without any concomitant responsibility to contribute towards them."

Mr Dowd drew a distinction between parasitic packaging and counterfeit packaging, which is "entirely different and an offence in itself".

Aldi won multiple awards for its television campaign "Aldi. Like Brands, Only Cheaper".

The Labour member went on to recount a recent personal experience, what he described as an "ideal example" of product-mimicking, involving what he considered to be a Worcestershire Sauce impersonator.

He told the House: "This was brought home to me most strikingly just last Saturday. I was in the Hare and Billet pub in Blackheath (in London). And I was having lunch, and I asked if they had any Worcestershire Sauce - everybody knows the famous manufacturers of Worcestershire Sauce.

"Now, I'm a simple soul from south-east London, and I thought there was only one Worcestershire Sauce. And the very nice chap who was serving us went away and said 'certainly', and he came back with a bottle, and it was shaped like the bottle which I always remembered containing, I think it's Lea and Perrins, Worcestershire Sauce and their marvellous concoction: same shape, same size, the label was amazingly enough orange with black lettering.

"But it was something from Sheffield, from somewhere called Henderson's - whoever they were.

"Now, I'm sure Mr Henderson and his company is a perfectly estimable organisation and I'm sure they pursue an entirely legitimate business, but I couldn't help feeling at the time that this, of all the colours they could choose for their label, of all the shapes they could have for their bottle, I didn't even know there was such a thing as Sheffield sauce until then, but I thought this is an ideal example of just how easy these things are to do (to copy)."

Henderson's Relish is the product name of a condiment also called The Spicy Yorkshire Sauce, and has been made in Sheffield for more than 100 years. Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce has been in productions for 170 years.