Own label feud setto revive

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THE British Producers and Brand Owners Group, which has been keeping a low profile since May, is set to revive its feud with leading supermarket groups over copycat products.

The group, which includes such well-known manufacturers as Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, Gillette, Grand Metropolitan, Guinness, Mars and Unilever, is due to hold a meeting at a secret location this Thursday.

But Edwin Beckett of IDV, the Grandmet drinks offshoot, who is the pressure group's chairman, refused to say what the meeting planned to talk about.

'I am not prepared to divulge what we are going to discuss at our meeting, nor can I tell you where it will be held,' said Mr Beckett.

But sources among the member companies suggest that the meeting is designed to draw up and approve a formal constitution and hierarchy. It already has a full-time secretary, John McLaren, based at IDV's office in York Gate, near Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London.

These steps are being seen as attempts to strengthen the group in its struggle against the supermarkets over their introduction of own-label products packaged similarly to the brands they aim to supplant.

Last May Sir Michael Perry, chairman of Unilever, said of retailers that stocked his company's products: 'I have no objection to sitting at the same table as my competitors, but I do object to them eating off my plate.'

The dispute reached a climax when Coca-Cola persuaded the Sainsbury supermarket group to change the design of its own-brand Classic cola cans to make them look less like Coke cans.