It is quite interesting that almost all the sellers of unbranded vegetable oil in and outside the market claim to be selling Kings Vegetable oil, though PZ Wilmar, manufacturers of Devon Kings Vegetable oil, have declared that the company does not sell unbranded oil.
This so called Kings Vegetable oil is watery and runny during hot weather but sleepy and congeals in its container when the weather is not very warm. Even when this oil is used in cooking, once the food gets cold, the slightly congealed oil makes a film coating on top of the food. Is it actually Kings Vegetable oil as claimed by the sellers? Consumers cannot tell.
One thing, though, is that the oil from branded Devon Kings container is completely different from the much-touted unbranded Kings oil. The oil in branded container appears light and slightly golden in colour. It remains runny and no matter how cold the weather is, it does not sleep and does not congeal.
However, assuming that the unbranded oil in the market is actually Kings like the traders are flaunting, how can one reconcile the difference in colour, taste, texture, and price with the branded oil? Does PZ, manufacturer of Kings Vegetable oil, make two different qualities of vegetable oil?
If then, the unbranded is not from the stables of PZ, the manufacturers of Kings Vegetable oil, why are they folding their hands and allowing their trade name being bastardised?
In a bid to find answers to these questions and many more, telephone calls were placed to Marketing Manager of Devon Kings Vegetable oil, PZ Wilmer, Chioma Mbanugo. An sms was also sent to her. Much later, she responded in a text that she was busy and that we send her a text. This we did asking for clarifications on the raised points.
Responding, the marketing manager asserted that the company has never sold unbranded oil. Explaining, she said that the company sells two cooking oil brands which are Mamador and Devon Kings.
“PZ Wilmar has become a trusted manufacturer to deliver best quality cooking oil in branded and packaged form in an extensive range of formats and pack sizes across Mamador and Devon Kings brands, which are in a world class, certified modern manufacturing environment,” she noted.
In a bid to reassure consumers Mbanugo explained that Mamador vegetable oil is sold and packaged in various sizes of pet bottles while Devon Kings comes in various sizes of satchets/pillow packs, 1-litre and 2-litre pet bottles, 3-litre and 5-litre kegs and 10-litre and 25-litre jerry cans.
Concerning what the company is doing to stop traders from using the name of Devon Kings to sell unbranded substandard oil to consumers, the manager explained that the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] as an empowered agency is there to enforce the quality standards in Nigeria.
Also, a top management staff of the company who, however, insisted on anonymity, debunked claims by the traders that the unbranded oil was Kings Vegetable oil. Speaking in a telephone interview, he explained that Kings Vegetable oil comes in sealed branded containers.
“We do not market any unbranded oil and we usually advise consumers not to buy if the seal is broken,” he explained.
You see, this ugly trend infringes on the right of consumers. Every consumer has the right to enough information regarding what she/he is purchasing. Aside government regulatory agencies, manufacturers also owe consumers the responsibility of protecting them from adulterated products.
In an interview with a Director of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria [MAN], the Director who chose to speak under anonymity said that a manufacturer is supposed to fight back when its product is being adulterated.
“A manufacturer can do that through the media by informing the general public that the said product being sold with his brand name is not a product of the company. The manufacturer should be able to advise the public on how to identify and obtain the genuine product,” he said.
Though not absolving the government of its responsibility, the MAN official noted that “the company should understand that their brand name is equally at stake. It takes decades to build a brand name and therefore one should not allow retailers use good names to dispose of bad product.”
“Trademark owners have the discretion to enforce their trademarks,” emphasised the director. He noted that many companies feel a sense of corporate responsibility and duty to their loyal customers and to their employees to fight counterfeits.
He also said that everyone involved in the supply chain has a stake in ensuring that products are protected from counterfeiting attacks.
Calling on brand owners, he advised them to educate the public by way of advertisements and even dedicated pages on their website and that once the facts are presented, it is left to the customer.
A Food Scientist with NARDAC, Folusho Adebayo, said it is the duty of every one to protect consumers from counterfeit products. “Government cannot do it alone as the market is so large and the products so numerous. What government can do is to enact the relevant laws and promulgate them while making sure there is maximum and consistent enforcements and penalties.”
Adebayo insisted that “the responsibility of fighting counterfeits starts with manufacturers and distributors. If you have a brand, especially a global one, monitor the market and promote market surveillance.”
“Government has the right of protecting the lives and wellbeing of her citizens all of whom are consumers” responded the national coordinator for Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Initiative [ACAPI] Mr. Hanson Maduagwu, adding that in a developed society, it should be the duty of everyone.
“Government’s role is to enact and enforce laws formulated for the protection of the legitimate rights and interest of consumers while also maintaining the socio economic order and the promotion of a healthy development of market economy,” he explained.
On the part of manufacturer, Maduagwu said it is their responsibility to protect the Intellectual Property [IP] of the brand’s products by registering IP rights, including trademarks, copyrights and patents in all relevant jurisdictions.
He also stressed the need for manufacturers to review their product lines to identify which items have been counterfeited and those which are susceptible to copying.
“The aim should be to prevent or substantially reduce imitations,” he added.