Noodle makers’ ad spat hits boiling point

Noodle makers’ ad spat hits boiling point

July 04, 2011

By Nguyen Thanh

Tensions between two noodle manufacturers are close to boiling point with Japanese-backed food maker Acecook unhappy about an advertising campaign by locally-owned Masan Food Corp.

Acecook Vietnam recently lodged a complaint against Masan with the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA). The Japanese firm claims that Masan’s Tien Vua noodle advertisements breach the country’s competition rules and could harm Vietnam’s noodle business. They want the ads stopped.

“We are suing Masan,” an Acecook source told VIR.

The TV ad in question uses images of two different blocks of noodles, one in a light yellow soup and the other in dark yellow soup. The suggestion is that the noodles which made the soup turn dark yellow contain toxic colouring.

But Document 431/2011/AV-HCM has Acecook saying Masan’s Tien Vua noodle ads conveys misleading information about noodle quality. The Japanese firm said Masan’s spots bore signals of unhealthy competition and violated Clause 3 of Article 45 of Vietnam’s Competition Law by conveying misleading information about the quality of goods to customers.

The document said over 80 per cent of noodle in the market was marketed by big manufacturers and all products met food hygiene and safety requirements.

“Thus this ad has caused unnecessary worry amongst consumers about the use of toxic chemical colouring in the noodle sector,” said Acecook Vietnam’s general director Kajiwara Junichi.

He said while the government was trying to support enterprises to develop, this ad could “kill the noodle sector, which is very important to the majority of Vietnamese customers”.

Acecook said colouring was just one of various factors contributing to noodles’ colour. Also important were ingredients used, frying duration and temperature, and processing technology. When colouring was used, noodles might be dark yellow, but this did not mean dark yellow noodles were evidence of the use of colouring as claimed by Masan in its aid.

Tran Hung, vice chairman of Vietnam Ad Association, told VIR that an ad like Masan’s might possibly cause misunderstanding among consumers about noodle quality in the market.

But he said that when a firm wanted to sue another firm, they need sufficient evidence and had to prove losses caused by the other firm.

“If Acecook only said Masan’s ad could mislead customers, it [Acecook] will find it difficult to win a lawsuit against Masan,” said Hung.

But the Acecook source said Acecook would run a customer survey to assess the damage done by Masan’s ad.

Last week, the Ministry of Health’s Vietnam Food Administration (VFA), which licensed the Masan ad, demanded Masan change some wording in the ad to avoid consumers’ misunderstanding.

VIR tried to speak to Masan’s PR representative and lawyer, but promises of a reply are yet to bear fruit.

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