The coffee capsule war: giant Nestlé fights in court against white marks

The multinational Nestlé is at war with several Spanish manufacturers of compatible coffee capsules for its ‘Dolce Gusto’ machine. In fact, the industrial food giant has brought to justice several Spanish manufacturers of white label capsules. And although at least two sentences known this year have provisionally proved him right, the truth is that his competitors have found a way to continue selling.
Emporio Nestlé's judicial strategy on Dolce Gusto is the same in all markets and reminds of the one he already used for years with another of his most copied brands, Nespresso, the acclaimed machine also owned. Even some of the defendants are the same. This is the case of Fast Café, from the Asturian Cafés Oquendo, which produces capsules under the brand ‘Me piachi’ and for the Catalan supermarket chain Bon Preu. This firm now sees the faces with the multinational before the judge for producing references for Dolce Gusto as it has happened in the past with articles for Nespresso.

The most recent ruling, however, affects Catalan society ‘Expressate’ -which has marketed white label capsules of Carrefour and DIA- and Rioja Cocatech, a Mercadona provider.


Capsules protected with a patent

The judicial conflict focuses on the design of the capsules, protected by a patent. While Nestlé argues that its competitors have copied this system, the defendants consider that there are sufficient differences for their product to be outside the scope of protection. In this last sentence, the court itself recognizes that it is a matter of special "complexity." In fact, the document is full of photographs and detailed analysis of the operation of the capsules once they have been introduced into the machine to decide which part is right. This ruling, which has already been appealed by Expressate and Cacaotech, cautiously gives Nestlé the reason and forces the respondents to stop manufacturing and selling the references that are the subject of the complaint.

However, Cacaotech confirms that they continue to be the suppliers of the white label capsules that are marketed in Mercadona, arguing that “none of the capsules currently sold are related to the judicial process, given that they were withdrawn about a year ago to be replaced by others of different characteristics ”.

Despite this, Cacaotech has appealed the judicial decision on the grounds that “there is no violation of Nestlé patents”. which does not provide data on what percentage of its turnover comes from its division of coffee into capsules


Fierce competition

The protection of its patents for which Nestlé fights -which is registered in more countries apart from Spain- takes place in a context of strong competition, since over the years dozens of producers have appeared in the capsule segment of soluble coffee that rival their brands. Among the most powerful are Jacobs Douwe Egberts, owner of Marcilla and is taught by L'Or, who, like others, has already taken advantage of the fact that some of the patents registered by the Swiss multinational have expired and some judicial setbacks harvested in court.

Nestlé began selling coffee in single-dose capsules in 1986 although it had the project stored in a drawer long before. And it was not until the beginning of this century when its consumption became a phenomenon, benefiting for years from having practically a monopoly in this sector.

According to data from the consulting firm Kantar, only in Spain in 2018 coffee in capsules already accounted for more than 44% of sales in value of this market, despite representing only 16% of the volume of consumption, reflecting a price per unit noticeably superior

And this is not the only war facing the sector of coffee capsules monouso. This product is very polluting. Its composition of plastic or aluminum together with the organic waste makes the capsules an environmental disaster due to the volume of waste generated. In Europe they are very bad views. The German city of Hamburg has banned them and the Balearic Islands have been the first Spanish community, along with Navarra, to deal with them. Despite the fact that the Swiss giant itself has already remedied a general collection and recycling plan for its capsules, both regional governments want to eliminate these doses from a year 2020 that are not recyclable. The draft of the Law on Waste and Contaminant Soils will prohibit single-use capsules that are not manufactured with compostable material and will only allow those marketed by companies that follow a process of collecting and recycling them in case they are not manufactured with these components.


Taken from: 16-09-2019