57 ways to can Dick’s beetroot

You have to hand it to the Aussie icon Dick Smith, he certainly has a way of upsetting the big end of town in the food business ... and for all the right reasons.

Last month he was in trouble for a cheeky television commercial which some people found a little offensive, but this month he has bigger worries.

The worldwide food giant Heinz is threatening to sue Mr Smith because of the labelling on his company’s beetroot.

The beetroot, which he has previously had to give away because of battles with the big stores, has him in hot water for these words: “When American-owned Heinz decided to move its beetroot processing facility from Australia to New Zealand causing hundreds of lost jobs, we decided enough is enough. So we are fighting back against poor quality imported product.”

Heinz says the statements are factually incorrect and continue to cause damage to its reputation and pecuniary loss to its business.

It is unlikely Dick Smith is selling more beetroot than Heinz and in the end this dispute is more about the multinational simply taking offence at the jibe.

With Australian food manufacturers going out the door or being swallowed up by much bigger companies – many of them from overseas – Dick Smith has become a warrior for Aussie produce and the Australian operations which do battle regularly to get a fair return and space on supermarket shelves.

There is no level playing field in the food business in this country. The big get bigger and the small battle against a myriad of issues on a day to day basis because they don’t have any market power. Many are at the mercy of the big end retailers.

So is it any wonder that yesterday the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims disclosed that the competition regulator has escalated an investigation into the two big supermarket chains over possible anti-competitive behaviour towards suppliers.

Australians, including beetroot manufacturers, milk producers, farmers and all other food manufacturers will be watching on with interest.

In the meantime, Heinz should leave Dick Smith alone, and as they say in the school playground ... pick on someone its own size.

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