Woolworths denies copy claims by local pasta maker

Happy Earth People alleged that their sales have declined since Woolworths plagiarised their chickpea pasta product.
Happy Earth People alleged that their sales have declined since Woolworths plagiarised their chickpea pasta product.

Retailer Woolworths has denied allegations made by Cape Town-based pasta manufacturer Happy Earth People that it plagiarised their product.

In a post published on their website, founder and co-owner of Happy Earth People Teleszia Pillay alleges that the retailer plagiarised their chickpea and lentil pasta products, which Happy Earth People claim in the post they were the first to sell in South Africa in 2016.

Recounting how she found out about the retailer's alleged duplication of their products, Pillay said in November 2018 she received a text message and picture from a friend, who had been shopping at the retailer when she spotted the chickpea pasta product.

Woolworths has refuted these claims and said they were actually the first to sell legume-based pasta in September 2015.

"We first saw the trend of legume-based pasta in 2015 at the Anuga food conference in Germany. Our Italian pasta producer did their first tests using legume ingredients to make pasta in 2014 ... In May 2015 they began commercial production trials and in September 2015 products were launched."

Pillay further claimed that Woolworths's alleged duplication of their lentil and chickpea pasta products cost them a business opportunity. 

"At the time we were working on securing a business development opportunity with a big corporate. However, once they got wind that Woolworths were importing products similar to ours, this bright, shiny opportunity dropped us like a hot potato."

Woolworths said it was not true that it did not support local, claiming that more than 90% of their products were sourced or produced locally.

"In this instance, we import to provide customers with authentic pasta produced in Italy. Our supplier has been producing pasta since 1920 and has immense pasta making expertise."

When contacted for further comment, Happy Earth People would only refer to the statement published on their site.

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