The Harvest Moon company of Hamburg, Germany launched in 2011 with a green juice drink. It started making coconut-based yogurt alternatives in 2015, and also sells a cashew-based product. It’s sold in retailers throughout Europe, and the company hopes to expand to the American markets.
US Greek yogurt giant Chobani debuted a new Non-Dairy line of cups and beverages in January. Both the Harvest Moon and Non-Dairy Chobani products feature plant-focused packaging and graphics, and Harvest Moon released a public statement last week accusing design theft.
"It's important that they change the design"
Harvest Moon founder and managing director Florian Jung told DairyReporter that his team visited the US last year to scope out the market and make distribution decisions, when they came across the Chobani brand.
“We saw that Chobani is doing a coconut yogurt, [which] is great, but then we saw that they used our designs. And that’s not so great. We’re a small company and small brand, and we’re very successful with our design. Besides our product, it’s one part of our success,” he said.
“If we are going to the US or Chobani is going to Europe, we’re going to have a problem. So we’ll protect our brand. And Chobani is positioning itself as an ethical company, and I think it’s unethical to use the design of another brand. So I think people should know about what they’re doing.”
Social responsibility is important to Harvest Moon, and it advertises the fact that it donates 1% of its total profits to charity. It’s accusing Chobani of mimicking the product as a whole, with its coconut base and outward colors and graphics.
Jung also pointed out the Non-Dairy Chobani products feature a white circle around the logo that its other products do not have, which is similar to the Harvest Moon packaging.
“We made this public because we want to get an answer from Chobani, and they haven’t reacted to our public appearance yet. We are examining how we are going to go about this in a legal way,” Jung said.
“For us it’s important that they change the design, because sooner or later we’ll be in the same markets and they cannot use the same design as we do.”
Chobani rejects all claims of theft
Chobani has denied the accusations and disputed Harvest Moon’s claim that they have not reacted. A Chobani spokesperson told DairyReporter that the company reached out to Harvest Moon on ‘multiple occasions’ last week and has not received a response.
Chobani released its own public statement Friday:
“Harvest Moon’s packaging looks great, and our Non-Dairy Chobani platform, sold only in the US, has its own distinct look and feel and comes in a variety of different flavors and formats. We’re happy to see Harvest Moon shares our mission to bring delicious, nutritious, natural options to more people.”
“We’re also happy they share our passion for giving back – since cup #1 in 2007, Chobani dedicates a portion of our proceeds to charitable giving and supporting the communities we call home. We’d prefer to celebrate our like-mindedness, rather than disparage for publicity’s sake. We wish Harvest Moon all the success in their quest to bring better food options to the European market.”
But Harvest Moon is worried about competing in the ‘fast-moving’ American yogurt market as a small brand with just 15 employees. It thinks a “further encounter in the fridge section is quite likely” and that it “would have a hard time prevailing against such a large corporation.”
A coincidence of design trends?
Plant-based yogurt alternatives have grown to be a hot global industry in the last few years, with a lot of competition between new startups and more traditional brands. So Delicious, Silk, Daiya and Follow Your Heart are all classic non-dairy companies with a ‘yogurt’ product, and all have distinct packaging that fit with the overall brand.
Harvest Moon and Chobani’s choices to lead with plant, fruit and greenery-focused designs play on the products’ coconut bases and their ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ aesthetic. But there is a third company that resembles this design concept and also comes from a coconut base.
Lavva launched a line of non-dairy yogurt alternatives in January 2018, made from a blend of coconut, Pili nuts and plantains. It’s sold online and in select grocery stores throughout the US, and its cup packaging features illustrations and leafy greens.
A Lavva spokesperson told DairyReporter that its products had different packaging at the initial launch and then debuted the refreshed, current design in December 2018.
“Unlike other brands, our packaging art is made from cut paper (not digital illustration) created by famed cut paper artist Hattie Newman. It utilizes vivid colors to capture the vivacious spirit of where we source many of our tropical ingredients,” Lavva said.
Harvest Moon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lavva’s packaging and Chobani declined to comment on it.
Harvest Moon released the following statement March 18 after privately speaking with Chobani on the packaging issue:
"We were in contact with Chobani and agreed that both companies share similar values and want to provide better food to more people. That is our main focus and were both companies want to spend their energy."