An Aussie company has been accused of falsely misleading customers into thinking its popular range of coconut water is made in Australia by printing a “dodgy” logo on cartons and bottles.
Cocobella Coconut Water, distributed by the Made Group which is based in Dandenong, Victoria, is branded with the beverage company’s name in capital letters, superimposed onto a map of Australia – even though the packaging clearly states it is a “Product of Thailand”.
The brand, which sells watermelon and mint, "straight up" and chocolate-flavoured coconut water, came under fire this week after a Reddit user spotted the discrepancy and posted a photo captioned: “We’re called Thailand now, are we?”, sparking a fierce online debate.
While some defended Cocobella – which also produces yoghurts, smoothies and fusion drinks – and rightly stated the Australian-owned parent company's name was Made, others were not so sympathetic.
“But it’s completely, intentionally deceptive,” one angry consumer wrote. “The company name was created with the intent for it to be used in a logo as it is to have the buyer believe the product was made in Australia.
“That’s very deceptive and I appreciate OP (original poster) for pointing it out. I’ve actually purchased this product a few times and will cease to.”
Another stated, “Buying from an overseas producer is a choice people are free to make, and it may be the only option.
“Deliberately misleading consumers isn't right morally or legally though, even though they have 'made in Thailand' written on there. That logo is dodgy AF, and they should be smacked down for it.”
Cocobella manufacturer did not 'intend to mislead'
After being alerted to the furore by Yahoo News Australia, a Made spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear that anyone has felt misled. It was not our intention.
“The intention of this mark, which we have used for some time, was to communicate that Cocobella is made by us at the Made Group as an Australian-based business.
“As acknowledged, all products do include the appropriate country of origin statements. We take all consumer feedback on board. On reflection, we acknowledge the potential confusion of this mark. As such, we will update this detail on our next run of relevant coconut water packaging.”
ACCC cautions against 'misleading impressions' on labelling
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warns that “businesses risk breaking the law if they make inaccurate country of origin claims”, such as “words, images or symbols that suggest a product is from a particular country”.
For example: “labelling showing the shape of Italy in the colours of the Italian flag could imply a connection between the product and Italy”, the ACCC’s website states.
Under Australian Consumer Law, companies could also be in breach and at risk of fines if “extra words or images” are used to “create an overall misleading impression” that a product is Aussie-made, it added.
While coconut palms do grow in northern Australia, they are not considered to be a native species and the majority of coconut products sold here come from overseas or are made from imported raw ingredients.
Other Cocobella products such as its strawberry yoghurt also carry the Made branding on a map of Australia, but with the addition of the official triangular kangaroo logo and the words “Made in Australia from 52 per cent Australian ingredients”.
An ACCC spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that “under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must not mislead or deceive consumers about their goods, including on food labelling.”
“Special care should be taken when using images or symbols on products to ensure that they do not give a misleading impression. Additional claims or representations should not negate or contradict the information contained in the food product’s country of origin label,” they said.
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