Marketing's first Brexit conundrum? European Court of Justice says purely plant based products can’t use dairy names


This week, German food watchdogs chased down Teutonic Tofutown brands to set up a landmark judgement. Legislators from the European Court of Justice ruled that for the purposes of marketing and advertising the term ‘milk’ must be reserved for animal based products only. Gulp!

Although there are exceptions, dairy names are protected under EU regulation 1308/2013 and the use of milk itself or for that matter, milky based or dairy terms such as cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt would also be protected. Interestingly, even terms like ‘milk’ used on packaging to explain the product in the description would also be a no-no or nein-nein?

Blimey! This could be BIG for many FMCG brands in an increasingly health conscious market with packaging, merchandising and advertising all effected. Alternatively, if Dave Davies (so good they named him twice…) has his way, post Brexit, Brit brands could be in the clear with nothing to cry over.

It's a strange one this. Consider the early Brexit ramifications - what could be a huge commercial cost for brands and retailers could turn into an unexpected near miss as a result of our recent political chaos. Equally, this milky juggernaut could end up rolling through the Brexit barriers as negotiations drag on or as global and Euro brands apply the amendments in Blighty anyway in the interests of cost and consistency.

It suddenly makes you consider the enormity of the changes, costs and unexpected benefits of the whole Brexit issue and how it will undoubtedly impact all of our businesses big or small. The capital ‘P’ political issues, the ones that make the headlines are obscuring some of the smaller ‘P’s and they have massive commercial repercussions for all brands, retailers and the marketing community skiing along behind. We’re all interested, challenged; scared and suddenly a little confused as to which way this might end for us all.

It’s not just the grown up, dinner chat that’s had us thinkingeither and frankly there’s only so many times you can use Brexit in one paragraph. What do you call ‘Almond Milk’ if you can't use the word milk – Almond juice, Almondy stuffor go the Prince route (RIP) and just use a symbol for the artist formerly know as…

This could get sticky if we have to roll this out and could have our copywriting teams working double shifts to find new ways of describing dairy transgressors in an increasingly flexitarian world (probably not a real word yet?)

As an agency that works closely with dairy brands, I’m believe strongly in defending principles, boundaries and legal presidents and this could be a big win for our dairy industry, so long vilified using flip-flop health trends. Butter is good now by the way guys!


It’s shoppers in the end who steer what we call things, not some wig wearing Germans. Our shoppers won’t stop calling milky things milk or buttery looking spreads butter, just because we change everything. ‘Geoff, just grab some Almondy stuff when you’re on you’re way home love!’

In the end, maybe it’s not the weighty Brexit issue, the legislation, our copywriting skills (although this looks fun) or even the right to defend our milky shores that makes you think most. I can’t help thinking, our shoppers will call stuff what they’ve always called it, despite enforced name changes.

It’s interesting that we’re not all eating Chinese Gooseberries or Melonettes (Gold Lion for that!) but the same fuzzy old Kiwi Fruit we’ve always had despite dozens of legal challenges and a mountain of Chinese and Italian grown fruit that now outnumbers the New Zealand crop by eight to one. Melonette, Non-Dairy shake anyone? God, probably the wrong audience to reject that as nonsense LOL!

Tim Orrell, UK Director, FPP. 0191 261 6662 or 0113 394 4332.

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