Woolworths after losing the first round of its fight with Frankies Olde Fashioned Soft Drinks, suddenly decided last night to remove the entire disputed soft drinks range.

Soft drinks manufacturer, Frankies, a small family-run niche business in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, had taken on the retail giant and won on Wednesday in its fight to protect its branding.

Initially, Woolworths CEO Ian Moir maintained that the rest of their vintage soda range would remain unaffected. But last night he decided to pull the entire range off their shelves.

Moir said that while they still maintained that Woolworths had not copied the Frankie’s range, it was clear that public sentiment was against Woolworths.

The Advertising Standards Authority of SA (ASA) had ruled in favour of Frankies after its founder, Mike Schmidt, accused Woolworths of “cloning” Frankies range of retro soft drinks, their packaging and flavours, and using Frankies strapline, “Good Old Fashioned Soft Drinks”, on their own house brand of similarly-styled drinks.

Schmidt said that Frankies started using the phrase in 2006 in all advertising material and point-of-sale branding.

“This is a fantastic victory for Frankies and for small business,” Schmidt said yesterday.

The ASA found that Woolworths intentionally copied the phrase – “Good Old Fashioned Soft Drinks” – to promote its own line of beverages. In its ruling, the ASA specified that the case had bearing on the particular phrase only and not the flavours, bottle shapes or design.

Frankies’ contention is that Woolworths also copied the names of several of its flavours, such as Cinnamon Cola and Fiery Ginger Beer.

The ASA ordered Woolworths to stop Frankies’ phrase on its drinks “with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling”.

It had three months to withdraw all such bottles from its shelves, and the ASA ruled that “the packaging may not be used again in its current format in future”.

In a second statement last night, Moir said, “We are disappointed by this decision as we believed that no one could own the descriptor ‘good old fashioned’, however, we have always been clear that we would abide by the ASA ruling.

“Customer opinion is much more important to us than the right or wrong of this issue, and the trust of our customers is far more valuable to us than a product range. So despite only having been asked to remove the “Good Old Fashioned” phrase from our labels, we have taken the decision to withdraw this range from our shelves.”

Schmidt said they were pleased that Woolworths had played fair and taken the decision to pull the product from their shelves.

“The moral issues surrounding this matter were clear, Woolworths copied my product, the public have let Woolworths know that they truly believe that Woolworths have done a dirty on Frankies,” he said.