There has been a commotion over the authenticity of Adabi Oyster Sauce in Malaysia. In response to that, Malaysia’s Adabi Consumer Industries Sdn Bhd (Adabi), the company famous for its condiment and packaged foodstuff, issued a press release on 11 March 2017 stating that it “has never produced any other seafood-based cooking preparation sauce apart from “Adabi Seafood Sauce”.
Adabi Oyster sauce made for Sri Nona Industries
The product in question is the Adabi Oyster Sauce (Sos Tiram Adabi), which has been in the market for quite sometime. Even though this oyster sauce features the iconic Adabi logo of a Malay traditional traditional stilt house, it is manufactured for Kepong-based Sri Nona Industries. The name of the manufacturer was not listed on the packaging.
Interestingly, the Kepong-based firm shares the same address as Sri Nona Food Industries Sdn Bhd and Lee Shun Hing Sauce Industries Sdn Bhd. The packaging of Lee Shun Hing (李顺兴) oyster sauce and vegetarian oyster sauce indicates that the oyster sauces are made for Lee Shun Hing Sauce Industries Sdn Bhd but without mentioning by whom.
A closer look at the ingredients reveal all three products Sri Nona Oyster Sauce, Adabi Oyster Sauce and Lee Shun Hing Oyster Sauce appear to have identical ingredients. However, the Adabi Oyster Sauce (255g – RM 4.91) is more expensive than the Sri Nona Oyster Sauce (255g – RM 3.85) even though both have the same ingredients.
All three products are distributed by DKSH Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
Pending appeal cases before the Court
The court case between Adabi Consumer Industries Sdn Bhd with Sri Nona Industries Sdn Bhd, Sri Nona Food Industries Sdn Bhd and Lee Shun Hing Sauce Industries Sdn Bhd is currently on going for many years. The High Court document can be found here.
Based on the author’s understanding, Adabi (Plaintiff) entered into an agreement with Sri Nona Industries (First Defendant) in 1988 for the sale and manufacturing of oyster sauce to be marketed under the “Adabi” brand name.
According to the plaintiff, the defendant has sold its Adabi oyster sauce in Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia and registered the trademark in Singapore and Indonesia in violation of the agreement. The defendant was also found to have breached the agreement by selling flavoured oyster sauce, said the plaintiff.
The High Court Judge Datin Hajah Azizah binti Haji Nawawi delivered her verdict in favour of Adabi (plaintiff) in the document dated 13 December 2016.
Now the case is pending appeal before the Court of Appeal, Malaysia.
Adabi Seafood Sauce
In the meantime, Adabi has released the Adabi Seafood Sauce, which carries the tagline “Lebih Sedap Dari Sos Tiram” or tastier than oyster sauce.
What Mini Me thinks
This is another example of commercial dispute involving the licensee and licensor of trademark. Looking at the broader picture, the penetration of soy sauce in Malaysia has reached a saturation point where soy sauce is available in the kitchen of every household.
Unlike soy sauce, oyster sauce is a growth segment. The usage of oyster sauce is high among the Chinese population but still low among the Malays who form the majority of the population. The recent action by Adabi is seen as a move to take back the oyster sauce business as this is where the money is.