/ Food & Drink, Shopping

I bought a copycat product by mistake

Lookalike supermarket products

Have you ever got your shopping home, to find that a big-name branded product you thought you’d picked up was actually an own-label lookalike? It’s happened to me, and our new research shows I’m not alone.

Own-label products that look like well-known brands are far from rare. In our investigation into lookalike packaging, we found over 150 products from Aldi, Asda, Boots, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug and Tesco that we think look all too familiar.

That might be why a fifth of Which? members have bought a ‘copycat’ product at least once.

It’s easy to do, especially if you’re in a rush, as I was when shopping in my local Lidl a few months ago. I grabbed a bottle of what I thought was Sarson’s Malt Vinegar off the shelf, only to get home and discover it was actually Samson Vinegar, a Lidl own-label product.

Bubble bath lookalikes

Not stopping for long enough to notice the finer details of the bottle, I’d simply picked up on the fact that the Samson and Sarson’s labels are the same shade of brown, and have remarkably similar names. Though on reflection, the fact that it cost about 30p for a large bottle probably should have been a clue that I wasn’t buying a well-known brand.

Are lookalikes a good thing?

On the one hand, I felt a bit foolish for having bought the wrong product, and certainly thought it was cheeky of Lidl to sell something so similar to the brand leader. But really, things hadn’t worked out too badly for me – I’d only spent around 30p on my mistake, and the vinegar turned out to be perfectly adequate. At that price, and without being able to identify much of a difference between the two products, I’ll probably try it again.

When we asked our members what they thought of ‘copycat products’, many recognised that they can be both a good and a bad thing for consumers. One said:

‘Own-brand products should be distinctly marked to display that they are own-brand. To use the same colours, images and shapes as the market leaders do is, to me, confusing the consumer.’

But another said:

‘Similar packaging actually assists me in finding the type of product I am shopping for.’

Many felt that while some own-label products can’t match up to the brands on quality, other own-label products are just as good as the brands, and are often cheaper.

Have you been caught out by lookalike packaging, and how did you feel once you found out? Have you spotted some own-label products that you think go too far in mimicking a leading brand?

What do you think about shops copying branded products?

I think it’s fine – they’ve never confused me (57%, 298 Votes)

I think it’s wrong – they shouldn’t piggy-back on other brands (43%, 227 Votes)

Total Voters: 531

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james says:
25 June 2015

I`m not saying the products are bad but copying someone`s packaging is just total DECEPTION

If you have made a mistake and bought the wrong product in a supermarket perhaps it is reasonable to ask for an exchange. Perhaps it’s time for the brand leaders to spend less effort on designing fancy packaging and on advertising and more effort on delivering value for money. That would help a lot of customers. If the law is being broken then legal action can be taken, but no doubt the customer will have to foot the bill. Perhaps we should look at it as a bit of fun.

I read recently that Marks & Spencer, manufacturer of Colin the Caterpillar cakes, is taking legal action against Aldi for selling Cuthbert the Caterpillar cakes. I was unaware that caterpillar cakes are now produced for various supermarkets: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/04/caterpillar-cakes-compared-which-supermarket-came-out-on-top Cuthbert could not be present because he was preparing his defence.

This is what happens in a catapilist country. You wait ages for a nice cake and then two run along together taking bites out of each other.

Are all caterpillars male? What about Coleen and Cuthberta for little girls? Maybe there should be a sexual discrimation case brought against the retailers.
Many bought cakes are disappointingly dry and sweet. All our children had home made birthday cakes in different shapes and decoration. Whatever has happened to our thoughtfulness in making stuff for our children? Apart from big cakes, butterfly buns were always popular at parties, more mature than caterpillar cake.

I had expected some humour. 🙂 I wonder if legal action against Aldi will be successful when other companies have copied the idea of a caterpillar cake with a name.

I expect it will set a precedent so, if successful, others will have to resort to worm cakes, centipede rolls, slug slices and other versions that will appeal to childish minds – and their kids ☹️🤮