The amazing Coles product lookalikes

A while back, the good folk of Kellogg’s popped into the office. Naturally, the conversation turned to Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

I was too embarrassed to tell them that the day before I’d accidentally bought Coles’ own brand version. (They don’t taste as good – and they contain nearly twice as much fat, I now notice.)

After all, what sort of naive consumer does that?  

But it did get me thinking.

The brands are in a pretty tough position against the supermarket own brand products.

It’s tricky to complain too hard about passing off, if the organisation you feel is doing so could also delist you at the drop of a hat.

So I spent a couple of relaxing hours trawling Coles’ shelves and marvelling at some amazing similarities. I even bought one of each.

Now I’d never suggest that they’re infringing anybody’s IP. But we have put together this video to pay tribute to the power of packaging coincidence – in layout, shape and colour choice.

But remember. It’s just a coincidence.

Video editing: Alice Terlikowski

Tim Burrowes


  1. Tim
    26 Sep 11
    9:52 am

  2. ..and don’t forget that the brand owners often contract pack the Coles brands!

  3. TobyHemming
    26 Sep 11
    10:11 am

  4. It’s called competition.

    If the major brands are worried- they just need to move ahead and create something better.

    I think Australian supermarkets finally getting their act together can only benefit one (often overlooked ) group- the consumer.

  5. Keith
    26 Sep 11
    10:14 am

  6. Tim,

    The scariest part about this is that you eat Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

  7. Nathalie
    26 Sep 11
    10:23 am

  8. Hey Tim,

    Cute video, nicely put together.

    It’s interesting to have those similarities made obvious. However I think in some instances the supermarkets aren’t just trying to rip off known brand designs, rather they are trying to make their product look familiar to consumers. For example as consumers we pretty much expect our chocolate biscuits to be in a brown wrapper with a graphic or photo of the product on it. If they put the biscuits in a pink wrapper people might think that was a different flavour and bypass it. Same with lime jelly, a red packet wouldn’t work. However for things like the museli where consumers would have no strong association of that product with a particular colour, it would seem like the supermarkets could be cashing in on the advertising work of Uncle Tobys by choosing similar packet design for similar product.

    Did you really buy the home brand product by mistake? X-) Get some sleep!

  9. Sherry
    26 Sep 11
    10:24 am

  10. I definitely am more likely to buy Coles brand vs Known brand now that they have improved/lookalike packaging. Some things (like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes) aren’t worth the few cents you save to go Coles brand… but many products are. The lookalike packaging makes me feel like I’m taking less of a risk – after all – if it looks the same, it might taste the same?

  11. Ella
    26 Sep 11
    11:30 am

  12. As my husband said is this you just trying to justify that you bought the wrong thing?
    Wow salmon in a can, microwave soup in a the same round plastic container that nearly all microwaveable soups come in, one huge dishwashing liquid and one much smaller in a similar green. With the chocolat bars & cereals it’s obvious the product itself has been copied but the packaging still sets them apart especially the rounded edge box with the product name that they put on every single item!! As soon as I catch that rounded edge title box out of the corner of my eye I know it’s a Coles brand, maybe because I usually shop there.

  13. Mufti
    26 Sep 11
    11:34 am

  14. Wow, that is a lot of coincidences. I think the test here is that if a competitor brand had somehow “borrowed” the colours, shapes etc of a particular brand, you can be sure that the owner would be dialling the lawyers pretty damn quick. And a cease and desist letter would be sent forthwith. Somehow I don’t think that is going to happen with your two biggest customers – Coles and Woolies.

  15. mumbrella
    26 Sep 11
    11:37 am

  16. Justify to who, Ella?


    Tim – Mumbrella

  17. Andrew
    26 Sep 11
    11:45 am

  18. Would be interesting to see Aldi added to the mix… As they ‘brand’ each of their products rather than using a PL umbrella brand some of the names can even carry similarities to the market leaders.

  19. David
    26 Sep 11
    11:54 am

  20. I just love the lack of creativity by Coles. The names they come up with for their products is hilarious – “crunchy caramel sticks”, “nutty nougat caramel”. Easy job for the designer though…

  21. Alison
    26 Sep 11
    12:01 pm

  22. Whilst some products are quite similar – I am thinking the chocolates in particular, I don’t really think it’s that unusual to use green packaging for a lime flavoured product, and brown packaging for a chocolate one, putting a pic of a cappuccino on a cappuccino product, etc.

    What would be interesting is to see all competing brands together, and see if Coles is more similar to a leading brand than any other competitor.

    And as someone mentioned above, at least some of the Coles items above are manufactured by the “leading brand” and they are using the same packaging with a different label.

  23. fibbest
    26 Sep 11
    12:24 pm

  24. @TobyHemming Do you really think what Coles and Woolies are doing is good for the consumer? Haven’t you noticed the actual branded products slipping away and the cleverly concealled home brand taking over. Meaning LESS choice for consumers and MORE profit for the supermarkets…

  25. Brian Haverty
    26 Sep 11
    12:52 pm

  26. Toby, it’s the *opposite* of competition. If the Coles/Woolworths brands were “better” products, they would want to differentiate themselves from the popular brands. If they’re not, it’s sneaky and, in some cases, a blatant trademark infringement.

    Personally, I do not buy store brands at all, because I’ve already seen a reduction in the depth of choice in these store chains, and I think increased emphasis on promoting store brands is the cause.

    And Sherry, that’s a wonderful characterisation of *just* the sort of people the big chains are targeting! :)

  27. Amanda
    26 Sep 11
    1:36 pm

  28. I feel that this is leading to the death of the brand. Walk into any Coles or Woolworths and at shelf you’ll see an entire range on ‘clearance’. A few weeks ago I noticed that Coles had the entire White King bleach range on clearance. Why? Because they have replaced that shelf space with their own product.
    It’s disappointing. What opportunity to small food manufacturers have to get into Coles and Woolworths? I now try to shop at the independent supermarkets; long live the brands!

  29. Trollolololo
    26 Sep 11
    2:00 pm

  30. My kids love a Light and Whippy. Whenever we’re at the supermarket they’re all over me to get a bag of Light and Whippy. I think they love them about as much as I love a sneaky Nutty Nougat Caramel. One thing’s for sure, both Light and Whippy and Nutty Nougat Caramel are sure to become household names. They’re just so catchy!

  31. Bob
    26 Sep 11
    2:02 pm

  32. good on you for exposing this Tim. Some of these have to be actionable under the tort of passing off, if not other IP protection laws. They are anti-competitive, clearly constitute theft and are an abuse of market power. Think of what the desired endgame looks like – private label brands dominating supermarket shelves with a few token remnants of proper brands to act as identification and purchasing cues

  33. BuyAustralianMade
    26 Sep 11
    2:07 pm

  34. Toby, careful what you wish for!!! With branded products come limited choice, spot on Amanda!!! Once there is limited choices competition ceases to exist. Shoppers need to wake up and start supporting Australian manufactured brands before it is too late. “What you buy TODAY will determine the Australia we live in TOMORROW.”

  35. Amy
    26 Sep 11
    2:30 pm

  36. All I want to know is – who got to eat/use all the things you’ve purchased?

  37. mumbrella
    26 Sep 11
    2:54 pm

  38. Hi Amy,

    Oz Harvest is picking it all up from us tomorrow.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  39. Tomasso
    26 Sep 11
    2:56 pm

  40. And it was just 10 or so years ago that Praise raised their share of salad dressing market from 33% to almost 50%, by copycatting Kraft, and the expense of Kraft. What goes around, comes around!

  41. Jess
    26 Sep 11
    2:58 pm

  42. wow…you have a lot of flour

  43. adam sutherland
    26 Sep 11
    6:44 pm

  44. You should do the same exercise at Aldi, they are masters at this!

  45. Terry
    26 Sep 11
    6:59 pm

  46. I was in the USA a few years ago and marvelled at Wal-Mart putting what looked just like the brand owner’s logo just where the brand owner usually had their logo on the back of the pack, with something like “This is NOT a P&G product”. Brilliant!

  47. Devitt
    26 Sep 11
    8:43 pm

  48. really guys… … are we seriously suggesting these products on your video look the same. Apart from being in the same packs most of the designs are completely different. Its not surprising that the packs are the same if the products come off the same production lines. Its always interesting to read about private label bashing… if customers didnt want the outstanding quality at great value in these times of economic hardship they wouldnt buy them……lets spare a thought for the vast majority of australians who just need help saving money on their grocery bills!

  49. Rais
    27 Sep 11
    1:54 am

  50. A lot of the Coles packaging is just what you would expect it to be. But Coles also have own brand products which look nothing like their branded rivals. They have an imitation of Milo, same ingredients and it tastes just the same, which is packaged nothing like the real thing.

  51. Rich C
    27 Sep 11
    8:11 am

  52. Tim – what you’ve identified is not limited to the evolution of private label, it’s a universal dynamic for brands. If you take a look at almost any category or industry, you’ll notice that there are clear conventions…

    Juice brands must show larger-than-life fruit on the front of pack, swollen with fresh juice to the point of being fit to burst.

    Coffee brands typically live in a world of browns, oranges and deep reds.

    Similarly, engineering firms can’t help but show you pictures of people in hard hats at every opportunity.

    And, universities love to share images of happy-go-lucky students casually chatting on the lawns, neatly offset by a shot of someone in a lab coat using a microscope.

    Most brands slavishly follow these conventions. But this does nothing more than tell us that they “belong” to one of these categories or industries. And it certainly doesn’t help them stand apart or give them any sort of competitive advantage.

    It’s lazy branding, it’s unimaginative design and, unfortunately, it’s far more widespread than private label in your local supermarket.

  53. Rich C
    27 Sep 11
    8:30 am

  54. …or you could argue that it’s not simply a case of lazy branding, but actually a conscious effort to devalue the brands on the shelf in a bid to make the place the real product. Just a thought.

  55. AM
    27 Sep 11
    9:52 am

  56. As with Aldi, they’re cashing in on the investment that manufacturers have made in the recognition and development of their brands. Yet manufacturers still continue to let them get away with it. Why? Because the supermarkets are also our biggest customers.

    Per previous comments, Mumbrella could you please do the same exercise with Aldi? If we ‘name and shame’ copycat advertising, we should do the same with packaging.

  57. belle
    27 Sep 11
    10:02 am

  58. Gone are the days where generic and substitute brands communicated their ‘budget’ and ‘low cost’ image through mundane, black and white packaging- I love that they are now being a little more ‘creative’ to compete with known brands by using cliche colours and images on their packaging. This has turned my weekly chore of grocery shopping at Coles in to a game of ‘spot the difference’. If I can spot 5 differences between the packaging of generic and known brands then I am doing well!

  59. Terry
    27 Sep 11
    5:16 pm

  60. Retailers are entitled to use their shelf space however they wish, but brand owners should be braver about challenging them for “passing off”.

    Final power should rest with the consumer. As some commenters have noted, it’s great for consumers if they can get an equally good product at lower price. In fact, forget rubbish about “support Australian made”, a sensible grocery shopper has a responsibility to find the best value for their family’s dollar. But if, as often happens, they find that an own label product resembled a branded one only in the quality of the label or packaging rather than the product itself, then they have a responsibility never to buy it again, and they should lose a little faith in that retailer for putting their brandname to a substandard product.

    On the other hand, if an own label product is packaged in such a way that an average consumer would pick it in the mistaken expectation that it’s the branded product, then the brand owner should sue.

    The idea that retailers have too much power isn’t really so in many cases. Imagine if Unilever Rexona, Procter & Gamble or L’Oreal withdrew every one of its brands from one of the supermarkets and coupled that with advertising explaining why. The other supermarket would be so excited they’d probably pay for their media!

  61. Kate
    28 Sep 11
    4:38 pm

  62. I’m with Mufti and Brian. It’s deliberate, unethical and reduces consumer choice.

  63. Peter Nicholson
    29 Sep 11
    12:23 pm

  64. I think everyone who has commented so far has missed the common theme running through all the home brand products, the use of a fictitious Gold Medal symbol. My company is a specialty food manufacturer and uses the Australian show judging system to give third party quality accreditation to our product ranges.
    We use the results in our labelling and promotional material. My personal opinion of the video, is that it shows the game being played as tricky at best. The loosers in the end are Australian manufacturers and consumers.

  65. Nicky Bryson
    5 Oct 11
    3:03 pm

  66. That’s hilarious. I could swear that TodaytonightacurrentaffairI’maboganwhatever copied this exact story the other night. I hope they gave you credit…

  67. I wonder
    5 Oct 11
    4:10 pm

  68. I found it interesting almost all the coles branded packaging was slighly larger than the branded offering.

    I can’t help but wonder what innovation is left once you’ve finished making it as cheap as possible.

    Do Coles / Woolworths really wan’t the large multi-national food brands to stop innovating with new products? They must be seriously wondering why they should bother when their largest customer will simply create a budget version of the same thing.

    I also enjoyed the music, very catchy.

  69. Terry
    5 Oct 11
    6:12 pm

  70. Good observation about size. The packaging looks bigger, but content’s the same.

    I believe the retailers are doing themselves a disservice here. They should be in the retailing business, not manufacturing. As noted here several times, this kind of competition makes branded manufacturers less not more likely to innovate.

    If they want to innovate beyond retailing, they could make money from treasury: manufacturer delivers and agrees to 30- or even 45-days payment. Retailer puts product on shelf, customer buys two days later and retailer has 25 or even 40 days to invest that money before paying manufacturer.

  71. cheesefingers
    12 Oct 11
    2:11 pm

  72. check the ingredients and the nutritional values. Sometimes the Coles one has more sugar and/ or saturated fat.

  73. Allen Roberts
    14 Oct 11
    8:27 am

  74. The great concern reflected in this video is that the local FMCG manufacturing sector has been decimated by the decisions taken by Coles and Woolworths.
    Whilst it is a competitive economy, and we all want the best retailers to survive to provide us with a level of product and service at the best price, the long term impact of the retail duopoly on jobs skills, the viability of many regional centres, and innovation in the sector has not been considered.
    Now it is almost too late.
    I have raved quite often on this on a blog, with no impact, do we really like a situation where we are net importers of packaged food?.

  75. Kate
    14 Oct 11
    12:42 pm

  76. I was shocked to see even Coles sunscreen is so similar to Cancer Council’s packaging. Hopefully consumers don’t mistakenly think they are donating to research when buying the home brand product.

  77. Dan
    18 Oct 11
    2:35 pm

  78. This story is about three years too late! When Coles first announced their intent to ramp-up their home brands to about 30% of their sales it started to happen. I picked up what I thought was a packet of San Remo pasta – same colourways, font – to find at the check-out it was the Coles brand which I quickly returned to the shelf. Having to jump ridiculous SKU hurdles is enough for their suppliers, let alone the copycat nature of the packaging…yet, the power of politics (being deleted) keeps anyone from saying anything.