Dick Smith admits beetroot battle rooted

Last updated 09:53 14/02/2013
Dick Smith beetroot
KICKING THE CAN: Heinz demanded Dick Smith re-label his cans or face action in court.

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Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith has stood by claims that New Zealand-grown beetroot sold by rival firm Heinz is "poor quality", but concedes he will probably lose if the spat goes to court.

Heinz is threatening to sue Smith's company over claims made on tins of its "Smith's Magnificent Sliced Beetroot".

The label reads: "When American-owned Heinz decided to move its beetroot processing facility from Australia to New Zealand causing hundreds of lost jobs, we decided enough is enough.

"So we are fighting back against poor quality imported product."

Smith admitted to Radio New Zealand this morning that there was "a bit of marketing in what I'm saying" but insisted the New Zealand product was different.

"I presume its the different soil, or the different style of beetroot you have there," he said.

"It's nothing like our beautiful sweet Golden Circle beetroot of old."

Smith told Radio New Zealand the issue would probably end up in court, and "they'll win".

He had earlier said the company would "go broke" if it had to recall and re-label all the offending cans.

A well-known champion of locally produced goods, Smith claimed his company was fighting back against low quality imports in general, which usually came from China.

He also had a warning for New Zealand beetroot growers about the perils of dealing with large multinationals.

"It might be New Zealand today, but I can tell you that just as the Aussie farmers got dumped, and everyone got thrown out of their jobs ... that will happen to you next," Smith said

"You'll never be able to compete with China, or Swaziland, or South America."

In a legal letter from Heinz that Smith made public, the company said job losses were minimal and that its products were of a high quality.

In 2011 Heinz announced it would move production of beetroot, some other canned food and some sauces - including the classic Wattie's Tomato Sauce - to Hawke's Bay.

That year, the company said the move was expected to create just a handful of new jobs in Hastings but cost more than 340 jobs in Australia.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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