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Sara Lee – just desserts or just another post-Covid victim?

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUES

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On 19 October, Australian dessert brand, Sara Lee, went into voluntary administration. Many New Zealanders will know Sara Lee of course for its range of frozen cheesecakes, pies and puddings.

According to Vaughan Strawbridge, one of the voluntary administrators appointed,𝟣 “Sara Lee is an iconic brand which produces quality Australian-made products from its manufacturing facility in Lisarow, NSW, where it employs some 200 staff. We are working with Sara Lee’s management team and staff to continue operations while we secure the future of the business.”

Sadly, Sara Lee is the latest in a series of Aussie brands (that are or may be familiar to Kiwis) to take a tumble in 2023: in February, Australian prestige clothes firm Alice McCall went into liquidation 𝟤; in late March, music and entertainment retailer Sanity shut down all 50 of its stores across Australia 𝟤; and in July, clothing, homeware and gifts retailer EziBuy went into liquidation.𝟥

Fortunately for buyers of their products, Sanity and EziBuy have at least been able to continue to trade online.

So what went wrong at Sara Lee? According to its website, 𝟦 “Sara Lee has a long history of producing delicious desserts using quality, authentic ingredients. … Our bakers and pastry chefs create delicious desserts and baked goods for Australians and New Zealanders every day, using traditional baker’s flour, real eggs and fresh cream”.

If Sara Lee’s desserts were so delicious, though, why have administrators been called in? Is Sara Lee just another victim of changing consumer habits in a post-pandemic world? Or, as with Tupperware, is a lack of innovation to blame? Or is it simply a case of rising costs combined with a drop in consumer expenditure on luxury items in the current cost of living crisis? We may never know.

Whatever the reason, there can be no doubt that commerce (and especially retail) has encountered some pretty rough seas of late and, while inflation remains high, the waters ahead will continue to be lumpy.

In this economic context, a business’s IP assets can take on increasing importance since they form the foundation of a business’s success and the platform on which a business can be resurrected – even if everything else about that business has changed (or been left behind, as was the case with, for example, Cath Kidston and Jaegar in the UK 𝟧).

One need look no further than the automotive industry for examples of where iconic brand names once thought dead have risen like phoenixes to take on new lives. One that immediately comes to mind is Mini, resurrected by BMW in 2001.

I will leave readers of this article – my last for 2023 – with one message: take care of your IP. Protect it, nurture it, and never take it for granted – one day it just might be worth something and, when that day comes, you’ll be glad you did.

Related: Beware, beware how you compare…


1. Source: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/dessert-maker-sara-lee-in-voluntary-administration/WZSYL7EB45AWRBQMPJKXVICNVQ/ 2. Source: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/australian-brand-ezibuy-goes-into-administration-as-sales-down-51/GUFK6WK2EJGR5CU6WKCFC63DOM/  3. Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/132589094/online-retailer-ezibuy-goes-into-liquidation-owing-more-than-100m/  4. Source: https://saralee.com.au/about-us/ 5. Source: https://startups.co.uk/news/uk-brands-administration/

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Ben Cain
Ben Cain
Ben Cain is a Senior Associate at James & Wells. He can be contacted at 07 928 4470 (Tauranga), 07 957 5660 (Hamilton), or email ben.cain@jamesandwells.com.

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