Do the Americans know something we don't about the flag debate?

A online US retailer this week jumped the gun on our $26 million referendum and dumped the New Zealand flag for an alternative.

Nutritional supplement company Bronson Laboratories' website for the "Vital3" joint solution featured a Kiwi flag of a large, diagonal fern on a blue and red background.

The flag is an adaptation of one of Prime Minister John Key's preferred choices, without the Southern Cross which features on the original Kyle Lockwood design.

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Bronson Laboratories failed to respond to Herald on Sunday inquiries.

It updated its website after our approach to feature the current flag, which sits next to Australia's on its orders page.

The 40-strong potential flag longlist will be whittled down to four by a selection panel next month. Voters will then rank the quartet in a postal referendum held over November and December.

The top-ranking flag will then go head-to-head with our current ensign in another referendum next March.

Meanwhile, Olympic gold medallist Eric Murray is considering celebrating with an alternative flag at the upcoming Rowing World Championships in France. Murray and his coxless pair partner Hamish Bond are aiming for a fifth successive title.

He did not say which design he would unfurl but has favoured a blue and black flag featuring the Southern Cross and the silver fern.