Petition launched in Woolworths soda row
A petition page has been launched on Facebook following accusations that retail giant Woolworths "stole" a range of soda flavour names and packaging from a small business.
The page is titled 'Petition to Woolies to stop faking Frankies' and it went live early on Tuesday.
In the 'About' section it says: "This is really about sticking up for local business. This page's founders are not associated with Frankie's. We're just sticking up for them!"
Users simply have to click "Like" in order to sign the petition, the page says.
The controversy surrounding Woolworths and Frankie's started when Mike Schmidt, owner and founder of Frankie's Soft Drinks, appeared on a radio show on Monday accusing Woolworths of "cloning the entire Frankie's range".
"I've never proclaimed ownership over 'cola' or 'retro'," Schmidt tells Times LIVE. "But they used the strapline directly off of our product and stuck it onto their bottle. It's a virtual clone of Frankie's."
Schmidt says this creates customer confusion.
"We received emails from customers telling us they thought they were buying Frankie's [when they were buying Woolworths]," he says. He says the retailer is showing a "serious lack of integrity".
Frankie's had apparently met up with Woolworths in June, showing them the entire Frankie's range in hopes of having the product distributed through their stores. Schmidt says the retailer turned them down "politely", citing that the Frankie's range was out of character for them.
Pick n Pay, Spar and Dischem already stock Frankie's products. Schmidt says he's already approached the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regarding the issue.
In a statement Woolworths denies any wrongdoing, calling the allegations "unfounded".
Woolworths Food managing director Zyda Rylands says: "We have not infringed any copyright, intellectual property nor registered trademark. We have also not been contacted by the ASA or any other appropriate authority about these allegations."
Regarding flavours, Rylands says: "Flavours such as cream soda, ginger beer and cola are used by a number of soft drink manufacturers and no one company owns the rights to these flavours, and therefore the use of these names.
"We do not believe that Woolworths range resembles Frankie's soft drinks."
Frankie's has been producing various flavoured soft drinks since 2006 and has earned a cult following that has spread outside of its native Natal Midlands. Their flavours have interesting names such as Homemade Ginger Beer, Olde Style Root Beer, Original Cream Soda, Cloudy Lemonade and Cinnamon Cola. The packaging is an ode to 1960s America.
Some consumers have taken to social media to voice their opinions.
The official Woolworths Facebook page was bombarded with negative comments from irate customers.
Writes Kevin Cadman: "Frankie's is VERY well known in KZN and when I saw the bottles in Woolies I actually commented "oh look, they must be stocking a re-branded Frankie's cola now." I've since found out that they simply just copied them. This is disgusting, regardless of whether you've infringed on trademarks."
Gisela Hack agreed, writing: "I actually thought that Frankies had become one of your suppliers - its an exact copy, you guys didn't even make an effort in trying to conceal it. shame on you and your entire team for not having the creativity for coming up with an original concept, or giving credit where due for somebody else's idea."
On Twitter, #Frankies became a trending topic, as did Woolworths. Some users have called on others to "Occupy Woolworths", while the saga has been nicknamed 'Woolworthsgate' by some.
Frankie's Mike Schmidt on Radio 702