WHEN on April Fool’s Day Sea Harvest read in the Sunday Times that an award for innovation had been handed to a product it considered a rip-off of a brand it has been selling for more than 20 years, it was not amused.

The product honoured by the award, I&J’s Out ‘O the Oven, had under a previous incarnation been branded Oven Crunch and forced off the market when a judge agreed with Sea Harvest last year that it was a blatant imitation of Sea Harvest’s Oven Crisp.

"Given the history of the Out ‘O the Oven product, we at Sea Harvest were surprised that I&J had been honoured for innovation, in view of the fact that the Out ‘O the Oven product is produced using the established method which has been employed by fish manufacturers for many years," Sea Harvest sales and marketing director Felix Ratheb said on Friday.

"We feel that to bestow a product of the year award on a product that clearly lacks innovation is misleading and is a disservice to consumers to the extent that the award creates the misleading impression that the product is somehow innovative and, by implication, better than the competition," he said.

Sea Harvest said although it had complained to the management (organisers) of the product of the year award, it had to date not received any feedback.

"While we at Sea Harvest welcome competition in the market, it is unfortunate that a product that is so similar to another product that has been sold for more than 20 years, and that had to be repackaged and relaunched after a court ruling against it, can be awarded an award such as product of the year," Mr Ratheb said.

In March last year Sea Harvest obtained a court order against I&J to stop it from "copying the packaging of Oven Crisp".