Sanitarium is defending its move to stop a shipment of 2000 jars of British marmite from entering the country.
The New Zealand marmite manufacturer, which hasn't put the popular spread on supermarket shelves for months because its Christchurch factory is earthquake damaged, says the jars infringe its trademark.
It successfully implemented an import ban with New Zealand Customs in July this year to detain products that breach Sanitarium's copyright.
General manager Pierre Van Heerden says the problem is not about the product, which tastes different than the local variety, but about the name.
He says Marmite has been around since 1921 and is an iconic brand they will protect.
The jars are stuck in Customs on the Lyttelton Wharf, pending a resolution between Sanitarium and British marmite importer Rob Savage, who was made aware of the issue last Friday.
Mr Savage says he had no intention of competing with Sanitarium and was only importing the spread, which was a Queen's Diamond Jubilee special, for British expats who prefer their Marmite over the New Zealand version.
He says the products are completely different in flavour, texture and branding and doubts consumers would confuse them.