Danish cookie maker Danisa is suing rival competitor Kjeldsens and a Hong Kong paper for defamation over a series of advertorials that claimed its cookies are not from Denmark.
The writ filed to the city’s High Court on Wednesday centred on articles published online and in print by Apple Daily around Lunar New Year in February. It is a period when many Hongkongers shop for gifts to family and friends, with cookies as a popular choice.
The articles were accompanied by videos that included a recorded interview with Kjeldsens CEO Brian Rønsholdt detailing the origins of the butter cookies and how they came to Hong Kong.
But what drew Danisa’s attention were statements claiming it had falsely marketed its own cookies – “using deceiving and/or misleading packaging” with the Danish crown logo to suggest they were “made in Demark” when they were manufactured in Indonesia.
The statements were made in the video with images of the Danisa Denmark Factory and its cookies.
Rønsholdt was quoted as saying: “Most of them are actually coming from Asia but [the marketing efforts use] different ways, pictures, images of Denmark or Danish words.”
According to the documents, he also said: “They are definitely not living up to what they claim to do … in terms of the butter contents and the different flavours. Some of them even use preservatives and artificial colouring as well.”
The plaintiffs said the articles suggested Danisa was not a reliable brand of cookies and had breached local laws, including the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. They also said there was a suggestion that the company ran a scam, with manufacturing lines largely based in Indonesia.
The plaintiffs also accused Rønsholdt of making use of what they described as advertorial to “promote Kjeldsens cookies and disparage their competitors”.
“The defendants knew and/or ought to have known the words were seriously defamatory,” the writ stated.
The defendants knew and/or ought to have known the words were seriously defamatory
writ filed by Danisa cookie maker
“The publications and republications of the [articles] … were carefully chosen …. to take place within a time frame that could deliver maximum positive impact on the marketing of Kjeldsens cookies and the corresponding maximum adverse impact on the image, reputation and marketing of their competitors”.
Danisa’s lawyers said the brand operated “a sizeable cookie manufacturing plant” of 84,000 sq ft in Støvring, Denmark, with automated production lines and 40 staff members, while it also had operations in Indonesia.
The Indonesian-made cookies, they explained, were marketed and distributed in substantially different packaging, without the Danish flag or the words “Made in Denmark”.
But as a result of the articles, the plaintiffs – Elite Gold, Danish Speciality Foods Aps, Danish Speciality Foods Aalborg Denmark A/S and You Yi Jia (Hong Kong) Food Trading – said they had suffered “loss and damage to their business reputations”.
They now demand a court injunction to prevent further publication of defamatory materials, a mandatory order for the articles to be removed, and damages for libel plus costs.
The listed defendants include Apple Daily and its editors and reporter, as well as Kjeldsens and Rønsholdt.