How to stop someone copying your food product

30 September 2020

If you invest time, money and passion into launching a successful product it’s likely that someone else will want to copy it. While it’s a sign you’re doing something right, you will need to take appropriate measures to protect your magical formula.

Froghop founder Melanie Loades recently looked at the theory and realities of guarding your intellectual property in an Online Product Development Kitchen webinar. Read on to find out how to stop someone copying your food product.

When is your product most vulnerable?

It’s crucial to consider how you deal with intellectual property throughout the production process. Start-ups in particular are more at risk as they launch products and potentially set up agreements with new suppliers, partners and manufacturers. There are various points through the process that can be cause for concern:

  • Suppliers
  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Label information
  • Public disclosure

Regarding contract manufacturers, Melanie advises having a stringent contract with your manufacturing partner: “It’s a difficult area as you need someone who has the capabilities to make your product for you, but the same time if they’re making a product for a competitor that’s too similar to yours, it could be risky. Choose who you work with carefully and try and write a contract as clearly as possible so your product isn’t copied.”

Legal loopholes and protections

Labelling is a legal requirement and involves detailing your ingredients, though not the specific quantities. However, there are ways to protect your ‘trade secrets’ within this. In the video, Melanie reveals how Coca Cola and KFC have found ways to hide their recipes from prying eyes for decades – and done so in an ethical and compliant way too.

There are pros and cons to patents and trademarks which Mel outlines in the webinar. However, a less complex (and cheaper) way to manage secrecy is to work out effective contracts and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with your product partners. There are instances when NDAs can’t be put in place – as is the case with off-the-shelf ingredients. However, bespoke ingredients can be better protected.

Quick tips:

  • Segment information – use a few different suppliers and provide them with different parts of the puzzle
  • Pre-blend some ingredients (either in-house or at a different manufacturer) before supplying them to your manufacturer

It’s not all bad news

Melanie outlines the opportunities arising within the topic of intellectual property and the challenge of how to stop someone copying your food product. For instance, if your recipe is coveted there’s potential for providing a white label service to other companies and thus expanding your business in a different way.

It could also work in favour of making the product in-house, or having your own supplier – such as owning the rights to the provenance of ingredients (a certain crop of blueberries, for example).

The full list of topics covered in the webinar are:

  • How could someone copy your product?
  • Label information
  • Trade Secrets: Why can no-one copy Coca Cola?
  • Patents and protection
  • Contracts and NDAs
  • Branding and marketing
  • Opportunities
Watch the full webinar now and find out how to stop someone copying your food product – access the recording free here.