UK breakfast cereal ‘Weetabix’ has been held by New Zealand customs due to the potential for the cereal to cause ‘confusion’ to local customers.

The owners of ‘A Little Bit of Britain’, a shop in Christchurch, NZ, specialising in selling UK based products, had ordered 300 boxes of the well-known UK cereal ‘Weetabix’ for sale in the shop.

Unfortunately, a rival food giant’s complaint that customers would be confused by the sale of the goods resulted in customs seizing them before they made it to the shelves.

Sanitarium, the owner of the New Zealand cereal brand ‘Weet-Bix’, objected to the sale of the UK cereal.  It claimed that their own NZ brand was protected by international law, and that, due to the Weetabix trade mark, Weetabix products are often prohibited from being sold in other markets.

Lisa Wilson, the owner of the ‘A Little Bit of Britain’, expressed frustration at the seizure. She could not understand the issue – given that the products both looked and tasted different and therefore wouldn’t cause much confusion.

New Zealand customs will only release the cereal on the condition that a sticker is put over the Weetabix label - reducing the risk of any confusion between the rival brands.

This incident highlights how important it is for brands, particularly new ones, to explore potential trade marks thoroughly and ensure that there’s no risk of conflict with pre-existing brands. This is particularly important when companies are looking to scale up and trade internationally - competing overseas brands can potentially block entry into new markets.

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For more information, please contact Nicholas de Figueiredo