OLG Celle: Plant-based product can be designated as alternative to cheese

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A purely plant-based product can be promoted as an alternative to cheese. The Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Celle, the Higher Regional Court of Celle, ruled that this kind of advertising is neither unfair nor misleading to consumers.

The designation of foodstuffs as vegan is an issue with which the courts have had to grapple. In 2017, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that designations such as “milk” and “yoghurt” must be not used in relation to purely plant-based products. We at MTR Rechtsanwälte note that the ruling also precludes combinations such as “tofu butter” and “veggie cheese”.

A business had advertised its purely plant-based products as “vegan alternatives to cheese” as well as “matured cheese alternatives”. Referring to the case-law of the ECJ, the plaintiff argued that this was unfair and misleading, even going so far as to claim that the designation “alternative to cheese” is an impermissible combination.

The injunction suit was unsuccessful at first instance. The OLG Celle subsequently indicated its intention to dismiss the legal action in a ruling from August 6, 2019. It held that for consumers the term “alternative” serves to clarify that the product in question is not cheese but rather something else (Az.: 13 U 35/19).

Lawyers with experience in the field of competition law can offer advice.


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