Food giants in corporate cat fight

NIKO KLOETEN
Last updated 13:02 12/06/2014

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Two giant multinational food companies have gone to the High Court in an argument over cat food.

Mars New Zealand, which owns the Whiskas brand of cat food, is being taken to court by Nestle New Zealand, which sells the rival Purina brand.

Nestle is applying for an interim injunction relating to claims printed on Whiskas dry cat food products about the protein content of the food.

Today's hearing in the High Court in Auckland was for administrative purposes and did not deal with the substantive arguments, which will be heard on July 10.

Commenting on the case, Nestle spokesman Maurice Gunnell said the company was concerned about comparative advertising used by Mars in New Zealand for some time.

"We haven't been able to resolve these concerns with Mars directly," he said.

"We've asked the court to look into the claims."

The products in question feature a claim about having the highest protein content, with an asterisk explaining the content is a brand average versus leading competitors, he said.

"We feel that's misleading consumers and we've asked the court to decide."

Mars spokeswoman Vicki Hamilton said the company stood by its claims on the Whiskas products.

"Our packaging and the associated protein claim has been in the marketplace for three to four years now and we continue to stand by this."

Nestle is one of the world's biggest companies, with a market capitalisation of almost US$250 billion (NZ$290b).

Mars, which is privately owned, had revenue of US$33b (NZ$38b) this financial year, about twice the revenue of Fonterra. 

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