Economy

Dick Smith calls for a “patriotic legal expert with guts” to take on food giant Mars

Patrick Stafford /

Iconic Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith is declaring war on the “secretive, greedy” American food giant Mars, taking out an advertisement asking for lawyers to send the company letters requesting it take the Australian flag off its American-owned products.

The move comes just a few weeks after Smith declared his company’s revenue had tripled after a print magazine campaign, but also as more politicians and industry members are calling for clarity on country-of-origin labelling.

“I want to get the company to remove the Australian flag from its products,” Smith told SmartCompany this morning – while stating up-front the measure was equally an attempt to boost sales for Dick Smith Foods.

“American companies can just put Australian flags on them to fool Australians, and I want to get more publicity to get them to stop,” he says.

Smith has taken out an ad in today’s Australian Financial Review saying most Australians would believe MasterFoods’ tomato sauce is Australian-owned due to the Australian flag on its products. But the product is actually owned by US-owned Mars.

“I have asked two ‘expert’ Australian legal practitioners in the field of trade practices to write a letter to MasterFoods on our behalf requesting that they remove the Australian flag from their label as we believe it is deceptive,” he says in the ad.

These two practitioners declined, citing no legal problem with MasterFoods’ Australian flag – the company uses Australian tomatoes.

Smith is calling for lawyers who have “the guts and patriotism” to write a letter to MasterFoods.

Apart from being a marketing tactic, Smith says he believes Australian consumers would choose to buy Australian-owned products if they had the chance.

The issue of food products using Australian-owned labelling is a contentious one. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been policing the issue for years, cracking down on businesses that use “Australian-made” labels deviously.

Recently the Australian Made Campaign has been lobbying Canberra to have more stringent rules for which companies can use the labels, citing food as a major area of concern.

In July, the Greens proposed a new labelling system for food and produce to help identify fruit and vegetables grown in Australia. The party proposed using “Made of Australian ingredients” and “Grown in Australia” labels.

Dick Smith says even though MasterFoods isn’t breaking the law, the company should still face protests over its use of the flag.

“This company is run by unbelievably selfish, greedy billionaires who recently took the American Government to task, protesting over the estate tax.”

“I think most Australians would be concerned about this.”

MasterFoods was founded in 1949 in Australia, but acquired by Mars in the 1960s. The company actually ceased using the MasterFoods name five years ago but products still carry the trademark.

Smith recently made a marketing push for Dick Smith Foods, releasing a printed magazine in newspapers. He later claimed the effort boosted Dick Smith Foods revenue by 300%.

 

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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