First “Sausagegate” and now “Aldigate” – It’s a conspiracy

If you’ve been anywhere near any of the Slimming World centric Social Media areas of the Internet of late, you’re almost bound to have seen posts about “Aldigate”.

This of course follows “Sausagegate” earlier in the year.

Background

If you’re not familiar with “Aldigate” – Aldi have launched their own range of “low-fat”/”low-calorie” frozen meals under the label of “Slim Free”.  Being Aldi – of course these are cheaper than the Slimming World labelled range available at Iceland (Iceland £3; Aldi £1.99). It even got a mention in some of the national press. If you click that link – you will see that the Aldi packaging – from afar at least – looks very similar to the Iceland packaging.

Slimming World have responded to queries about the syns in these Aldi meals to say that they are aware of the range and believe that this range may infringe on some of Slimming Worlds trademarks/copyright and are seeking legal counsel. They have also said that until it is resolved that they will not be putting the syns on the Syns Online database.

What is this “Sausagegate” you mention?

“Sausagegate” is a similar situation that occurred in early 2017 over a range of low-fat sausages. Everyone started raving on about them on Social Media and Slimming World took a closer look. There was then some dispute between Slimming World and the manufacturer about the fat content of these low-fat sausages and they were again removed from the Syns Online database.  That time, as well as the national press, it even got coverage by BBC1.

Disclaimer

Everything from here on in is my opinion and viewpoint. As the “Disclaimer” page – I am not a Slimming World consultant, I am also not paid in any way by Slimming World for this blog and Slimming World is not involved in this blog in any way either. This is opinion and conjecture and guesswork.

My opinion

Firstly I think Slimming World have slightly shot themselves in the foot with not listing the syns on the database – regardless of which way the legal action goes. The fact is the products are out there and people are eating them and want to know the syns. The good thing is that the syns calculator shows some of them as being syn free, however one of them comes back at 9.5syns.

The flip side of listing them though is that kind of gives the opinion that Slimming World “approve” these “disputed” products.

The packaging does look similar and I’ve seen more than one comment from people who have said something akin to “But I thought all the Slimming World meals were free?”. They are, but these are not the Slimming World meals.

There’s another thing – the Aldi range seem to be almost direct copies of the Slimming World range (Although Slimming World have now announced that their sweet potato curry is being discontinued). Even the pictures on the box look nearly identical.

We mere members though do not know the ins-and-outs of Slimming World legal argument against these meals. There’s a conspiracy out there that they’re doing this because they don’t like the competition – especially when it’s cheaper. Could it actually be that the copyright infringement isn’t about the packaging, or the name but the actual recipes being used?

Like I said above – the actual meals are near to what are already in the Slimming World range. They even look very similar. Has someone taken Slimming Worlds/Iceland’s recipe and recreated it? (As I said this is pure conjecture). These recipes are meant to be “exclusive to Iceland” – as it says on the box.

Could it even be that the factory that makes them for Slimming World/Iceland has decided to sell to Aldi as well without Slimming World’s permission and breaking the exclusivity deal? Again only my opinion – I have no evidence to back that up apart from the circumstantial evidence based on the look of the packaging and the meals that are covered in the “Aldigate” conspiracy.

Is Iceland part of the problem?

I’ve also seen suggestion that part of the appeal of this new range from Aldi that’s been caught up in “Aldigate” is that Aldi has more stores than Iceland. Why don’t Slimming World make their range more accessible by selling in any of the larger supermarkets? We mere members don’t know, but my thought is that:

  • The factory that makes the meals couldn’t handle the volume that Tesco and the like would require.
  • The larger supermarkets wouldn’t give Slimming World any assurances regarding product placement and promotion
  • The companies that could handle the volume that Tesco, etc would require, wouldn’t give assurances to Slimming World that they wouldn’t substitute cheaper (and fattier) meat items into the manufacturing process to reduce overheads.

When you take things like that into account – especially with it being a three-way relationship (Manufacturer, Slimming World and Iceland) – I’m sure that Slimming World found the best partners it could when it was discussing producing these meals initially.

“Aldigate” has come about because Slimming World are scared of the competition

What a load of crock. Sorry but that’s my opinion.

Let’s get one thing out there now. Slimming World are not in the food production business. Yes they have a range sold at Iceland with their name on the label. But so does Weight Watchers (except theirs are made by Findus or Bird’s Eye I believe and can produce the volume required to be sold more or less everywhere).

Slimming World is first and foremost a weight management company. That is where pretty much all of their revenues arrive from (plus sales of magazines and books, etc). My thought (and again i am not privy to any inside information to back this up) is that they make pennies out of the sales from the Iceland meals. How did I arrive at that conclusion? As I said above – it’s a three-way relationship – and it’s Iceland that carries the brunt of the costs involved. They buy from the manufacturer, they store the meals in their distribution centre(s), they transport it to the stores, they pay the wages and bills in the stores. All that equals that they should be taking the lion’s share of the profits from the sales.

Plus i suspect it’s more of a licensing type deal. Slimming World licences to Iceland to use their name on the packaging. Much the same as Disney will licence the use of images of “Star Wars” on all the toys associated with the franchise that will soon be hitting the shelves again. The cost of these licences? Usually a pence or two per item produced. (It’s when you sell millions of them that Disney makes LOTS of money). And I suspect the same is true with Slimming World and Iceland.  Iceland takes the majority of the profits and Slimming World makes a pence or two a meal. (Actually it’s probably a little more as Slimming World is involved I believe in the manufacturing process as some kind of advisor).

Slimming World is more concerned about profits than its members

I’ve heard that said more than once about “Aldigate”.  As I said at the top – my personal viewpoint is that Slimming World has done themselves no favours in saying that they won’t list these meals at this time. But with the potential of legal action – I can also understand their reluctance.

However Slimming World is a business. Any business has to be profitable to survive long-term. They are also a brand name and they have to protect their brand name and the reputation that brand name has. Aldi have produced an item that looks very similar in packaging to an item that also carries Slimming World’s brand name. Imagine the outcry if Slimming World didn’t protect their brand name/trademarks and someone produced a product that copied their recipes but turned out to be making people put weight on instead of loosing it? Everyone would be up in arms. “I thought it was free on Slimming World’s plans as it looked like it was the Slimming World meals”. As I say – people are confusing the two.

Is there really a conspiracy?

No. Not in my opinion. Slimming World are doing what any other company would do in the same circumstances. They are not afraid of competition. They are happily making millions through the groups alone. They only entered into the ready meal market because the members were demanding it. They would much prefer us to be making our own meals from scratch when possible.

There are other low syn ready meals out there. Slimming World hasn’t pursued those in the courts because there isn’t a need. There are other sausages out there that are low in syns – they haven’t been threatened with legal action either. Weight Watchers – Slimming World’s biggest competition in the weight loss industry in the UK – have their name on the labels of a range of yogurt – are these highly synned because of that? No, most of them are syn free (and tasty too).

In Conclusion

There is no conspiracy. Slimming World are not afraid of the competition. They are however a business and have to protect their trademarks and their reputation. They almost certainly are not considering legal action against Aldi because it may cut their profits on the ready meals. Do the Aldi meals taste better than the Slimming World ones? No idea. I personally don’t eat ready meals. In fact for me – even the Aldi ones are too expensive.  I can do more with £1.99 worth of raw ingredients than I can with £1.99 (or £3) of ready meals.

Please remember folks – this entire post is my opinion. I have no inside information from Slimming World, Iceland, Aldi or anywhere else involved in these. I have received no goods or monies from any of these companies to write this article either. I have spent time however working at the head office of a retail company (a now defunct fashion chain) and have applied some of the things I learnt in that time to the situation about “Aldigate”. I may be dead on in my guesses regarding the inside-outs of this situation or I could be miles from the truth. The fact is – unless you work at one of the companies involved and are at a high enough level to be involved in the discussions that are bound to be happening right now across all of these companies – none of us will ever know.

Personally – regardless of my view-point on ready meals – I hope this situation can be worked out. There will be some that prefer the Aldi meals over the Iceland ones, and vice-versa – there will be some who prefer the Iceland ones. There’s room in the market for all of these products.

 

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