Akshit Pushkarna

The Imitation Game: Dabur's Tasty Masala is a Maggi Masala-ae-Magic lookalike

The packaging of Dabur's newly launched flavouring product resembles that of Masala-ae-Magic.

FMCG major Dabur has added a new product to its sub-brand Hommade. Tasty Masala is a flavouring spice mix, similar to Maggi Masala-ae-Magic.

Dabur advertised the product with a quarter page advertisement on the front page of Hindustan Times (Delhi) on September 5. While the ad is a fairly standard one, the packaging of the product caught the attention of eagle-eyed branding experts on social media.

The yellow-coloured pack and the branding on it closely resembles Masala-ae-Magic. The brand name is outlined in red and is of the same hue as the red in Maggi's logo.

Moreover, the elements in the imagery on the Hommade Tasty Masala pack, are a combination of those on the Masala-ae-Magic one. Having established its presence in the market over the years, Maggi’s product is a leading brand in this category.

“When you compare the packaging of the two products, it is a little difficult to tell them apart. It is extremely similar, and there are only slight differences in the design. The overwhelming similarity is the colour palette,” Shivaji Dasgupta, founder and managing director, INEXGRO Brand Advisory, tells afaqs!.

“It is a fairly common practice by private retail labels to blindly replicate the colour coding of branded market leaders for easy shelf identification and possibly create deliberate confusion, to drive eyeballs and business,” he adds.

At this point, it can’t be ascertained whether the product’s packaging can be referred to as plagiarised or not. The Advertising Standards Council of India’s code lists plagiarism on all consumer facing content, including packaging, as grounds for action against a brand.

“It is unusual for a brand like Dabur to do it, as conventional branding wisdom would suggest that it would build a unique identity. This will possibly lead to a “me too” effect in retail shelves and help drive some hasty business for Dabur, with Maggi bearing the brunt of this move in a negative sense. But then, the colours will play a short-term role, as other elements of brand equity, especially taste, will be the deciding factors,” Dasgupta mentions.

This clause in ASCI's code was utilised by Dabur in 2020, when Marico entered the honey category under the Saffola brand, with packaging similar to Dabur Honey. The company filed a complaint against Marico with ASCI and registered a case against Marico in Delhi High Court. The case, which was filed in December 2020, alleged that Marico imitated the shape of the bottle, the yellow lid, trade dress, dome-shaped label, and packaging of Dabur Honey.

“Any brand wants easy and quick acceptance. Imitating the existing leaders in a category, is a form of flattery we all are aware of. What it does is that it may lead the consumer to become a little confused,” mentions Chandramouli Nilakantan, CEO, TRA Research.

“This isn’t a new thing and the conversation around this will only give Dabur the advantage. The space is virgin and Maggi has been occupying it for 20 years. Dabur is a dynamic company. It has made a name for itself in categories it has entered,” he adds.

Nilakantan believes that there may not be much of a legal implication for Dabur, as the pack isn’t a blatant copy of Masala-ae-Magic. He also says that the practice is normal and generally acceptable.

“The colours are the same and nobody owns a colour. I think Dabur gets a big advantage in cracking the market here, because it is an Indian brand and Nestle isn’t. The market will also welcome more players,” mentions Nilakantan.

afaqs! reached out to Dabur and Nestle, and both the companies didn’t respond at the time of writing this piece.

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