Amsterdam, Netherlands, Unilever NV has sued Ahold NV’s Dutch unit Albert Heijn for allegedly copying the packaging of Unilever’s branded products. Unilever said that Albert Heijn had copied packaging of margarine brands Becel, Blue Band, Flora, and Croma, and also that of Lipton ice tea and Bertolli olive oil. Hans Koeleman, spokesman for Ahold, said Unilever’s suit was baseless, while Unilever spokesman Richard van der Eijk said Heijn “crossed the line,” according to published reports.
Heijn, one of Unilever’s biggest customers, had temporarily pulled Unilever products from its shelves in 2002 after Unilever refused to meet price cut demands. The case is likely to act as a precedent in future conflicts as retailers continue to rapidly grow private label businesses.