Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Georgie Pie revival hopes kept alive

Fans of the Kiwi pie brand won't let it go. Photo / Richard Robinson
Fans of the Kiwi pie brand won't let it go. Photo / Richard Robinson

McDonald's says it may resurrect Georgie Pie, the New Zealand restaurant chain that closed down more than a decade ago.

But an Auckland businessman, who says his own plans to reintroduce the brand were thwarted by the Golden Arches, reckons the fast food giant sees a return of the pie chain as a threat to burger sales.

McDonald's acquired Georgie Pie, which closed in 1999, from Progressive Enterprises in 1996 and holds the trademark and intellectual property rights.

Managing director Mark Hawthorne said the company had been conducting consumer research to find out "how, when or if" the pie brand could make a 21st century comeback.

"What we do know is there's love for the brand, but part of that love was based on the fact that the pies were [sold for] $1, 15 years ago," he said.

Hawthorne said a Georgie Pie product would need to sell for at least $2.90.

But Martin Gummer, a former North Shore baking company owner who approached McDonald's about rekindling the pie brand in 2008, said he believed the fast-food giant talked about bringing back the brand to dissuade people, like himself, who wanted to have a go at reintroducing it.

"McDonald's realises the pie market in New Zealand is actually a very big market - it's a bigger market than the hamburger market," Gummer said.

"If you look at it in big picture terms, McDonald's biggest threat is not Burger Fuel or whatever else, it's [a return of] Georgie Pie."

Hawthorne said the company had invested a lot of money into consumer research around Georgie Pie, which showed it had serious intentions around the brand.

Gummer said his offer of payment of royalties in exchange for the Georgie Pie trademark was rejected.

The venture would have involved the company he used to operate, Bakers Harvest, making the Georgie Pie products for sale through retail outlets, he said.

Gummer, a former Auckland Regional Transport Network chief executive, said a stand-alone restaurant may have been established.

In 2009 he told the Business Herald he was considering taking McDonald's to court to get its continuing ownership of the Georgie Pie brand "struck down". But yesterday he said he eventually decided the legal costs would be too great.

Bakers Harvest went into receivership last year, Gummer said, and was now under new ownership.

Penny Catley, a partner with law firm Baldwins Intellectual Property, said an application could be filed to revoke a registration from the Trademarks Register if it had not been in continuous use for a period of three years and one month.

However, if the owner of the trademark could prove that "residual goodwill" around the brand existed, and consumers were being deceived by the new user of the brand, action could be taken under the Fair Trading Act and/or common law, she said.

A "Bring Back Georgie Pie!" Facebook page has more than 45,000 members.

- NZ Herald

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