Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weetbix controversy rolls on

Back in February 2009, I did a post: Who invented Weetbix? This was followed, after a lot of international sleuthing, by the sequel in September last year. 

Now ... the British version is to be banned in New Zealand due to accusations of trademark infringement.
A British culinary institution loved by expat Poms is disappearing from Kiwi shelves after a legal row over the name.
Supplies of Weetabix, long regarded as a staple of the British breakfast, are running out after Sanitarium wrote to the manufacturers saying it had New Zealand copyright on the terms Weetabix and Weet-Bix.
Sanitarium spokeswoman Kim Stirling said importing Weetabix to New Zealand was a trademark infringement on the company's brand.
"We're quite a big brand in New Zealand and they're quite a big brand in the UK. We feel it's quite an important thing just because we've built up the intellectual property [of Weet-Bix] here."
And ...
Sanitarium has been trading in New Zealand since 1900 and started making Weet-Bix in 1932.
Weetabix was introduced to Britain by two South Africans who formed the Weetabix Food Company in 1932. The company declined to comment.
Bennison Osborne has been fairly well established, via this blog, as the leading light behind both the Aussie-Kiwi and British versions of the wheat biscuit for brekkie -- and he wasn't South African, but Australian. Ah, well. I've talked about the weird way the story of brands gets twisted over time before now. Actually, I just buy the supermarket's in-house wheat biscuit brand these days, because it's cheaper.

Update 8 August 2011: John Baskerville Bagnall, Arthur Shannon's nephew, enters the feay in favour of his uncle as Wett-Bix originator with a lengthy page on the story, here.

There is utter confusion in a string of entries in Timespanner: A journey through Avondale, Auckland and NZ history. It reproduces an article said to be from the Auckland Sun, 21 December 1921 – note the date! The article has Weet-Bix as a New Zealand product, invented 2 or 3 years ago, i.e. 1918 or 1919. The truth is that the Auckland Sun was only published for a short period from 1927 to 1930, after which it was incorporated into the Auckland Star. So, the article in the Auckland Sun cannot have been published in 1921 and Weet-Bix was not a New Zealand creation.
I agree. I reckon I mis-recorded the date on the article copy as 1927, not 1921. The earliest Weet-bix competitions here in NZ seems to be from late 1926. But, for such a simple brekky food -- the story does seem to have a lot of convolutions. I hope Mr. Bagnall has updated that Wiki page and made corrections!

But why did the article I found refer to Weet-bix as a "New Zealand concern"? Ah, well, at least more information has been brought to light.


  1. LOL
    Lordy, what a lot of fuss over a name!
    A cereal is a cereal by any other still soaks up the milk and needs bucketloads of sugar to taste decent lol ;)

  2. Too right, Jayne! It must be all just a wee bit mad, up there in the cereal biz boardrooms. Maybe they've had too many Weet-Bix for brekkie? ;-)