The importance of accurate product description is well known to most food and drink suppliers. Consumers in particular are anxious to be protected against mis-description of product origin (as demonstrated by the horsemeat scandal) and also where geographic provenance is important.

These were matters which were debated in the recent (English) High Court case between the makers of Total Greek Yoghurt, Fage UK, and US based yoghurt manufacturer Chobani.

Authentic Greek yoghurt requires to be made with a straining method without artificial additives or thickeners. Chobani launched a product which was Greek-style, but advertised as Greek; and only in the small print on the packaging was there any indication that the yoghurt was manufactured otherwise than in Greece. In fact, it was manufactured in the USA. Chobani's product claims, and much of its defence, was that Greek Yoghurt did not have to be from Greece but simply that the process (of manufacture) had to be Greek. This was soundly rejected, based on evidence including from industry experts and consumer survey. The combination of misdescription and buyer confusion satisfied the tests for passing off.

So, this is an example where substance prevails over style. Fage successfully persuaded the High Court that "true" Greek yoghurt commanded a higher price than Greek-style yoghurt in the UK retail market, and that its own "Total Greek" brand was the price leader in the thick and creamy yoghurt market ,which comprises both Greek and Greek-style yoghurt.( Until the arrival of the apparently inferior Chobani product in the market in 2012, Fage's total Greek yoghurt sales accounted for more than 95% by value of all yoghurt sold in the UK as Greek yoghurt).

What lessons can be learned? It will have been an expensive dispute for Chobani, and highlights the importance of ensuring accurate product description particularly where geographic or other characteristics important to consumers are involved and support a recognisable price differential. The court made clear that there was no suggestion that Greek yoghurt enjoys PGI status in the way of Champagne or Parma ham or such products, but the distinction between product description as "Greek" and "Greek-style" was regarded as significant. One of the many pieces of evidence approved by the Judge was from a marketing agency about provenance, namely "In (consumers') attitude towards food, things taste better when they are from where they should be from". In other words, people prize authenticity.

The get up of the product was sufficiently confusing to the buying public that Fage's claim for passing off and ultimately permanent injunction against Chobani distributing its product as "Greek" Yoghurt was successful.