A Korean American-owned soju brand is calling out a Los Angeles-based company for allegedly ripping off their old packaging design.
Hello Soju, which debuted on Friday at Coachella and claims to be “the world’s premier soju seltzer,” features what appears to be a bird on its cans.
The marketing did not sit well with Hummy, a New York-based soju brand founded by Korean American best friends David Lee and Chris Park. In an Instagram post on Saturday, the brand — whose logo was inspired by the hummingbird — placed an image of its original packaging next to a promotional photo of Hello Soju and asked followers, “Feeling déjà vu?”
“When we saw this new brand, we couldn’t help but wonder whether it looked too familiar,” wrote Lee and Park, who also took notice of similarities in color schemes and taglines.
While they are “thrilled” to see soju gain more recognition, Lee and Park stressed that “cultural appropriation is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.”
“We’re not here to be exclusive about Korean culture and love that it’s entering the mainstream,” the co-founders added. “But we believe that what looks to us like copying another brand’s design, copy or marketing is not the right way to honor the culture.”
The New York University alums have always wanted to start their own venture. While on a retreat in a California desert, a hummingbird reportedly landed in front of them and soon became the symbol of their brand.
“Agile, curious, and cheerful, the hummingbird came to embody the brand [Hummy]. And inspired by the hummingbird’s dance from flower to flower, they created a drink to savor the moments that matter most,” Hummy’s website reads.
Hello Soju, on the other hand, is part of The Hello Group (THG), an entertainment company headquartered in Los Angeles with operations in London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Seoul.
According to their website, THG’s founder and CEO Taylor Jones is “an award-winning, multi-dimensional entertainment executive, manager, A&R, agent, songwriter, executive producer, creative director and showrunner” who is “globally recognized as a driving force in the global rise of K-Pop in today’s pop culture.”
Hello Soju’s two-week-old Instagram account features a “heritage” post that provides background on the inspiration behind its products:
Hello Soju was developed by the partners at The Hello Group (THG) to celebrate the beauty and ingenuity of Korean culture. We are best friends that share a deep passion for the music we create, and the experiences that surround it. Hello Soju is a product born from those very experiences that demonstrate a lifestyle so strongly influenced by our love for Korean culture — and in particular, our love for Soju.
Hummy tagged Hello Soju in its recent Instagram post, which has since drawn comments from users who accused the latter of “stealing.”
“@hellosoju absolutely disgusting to steal someone else’s work and claim it as your own,” one user wrote.
“Hello soju? More like bye soju,” another user commented.
“This is embarrassing on so many levels. It’s not like they followed a trend and landed close to your previous packaging,” another noted. “They obviously also copied the slogan, and with that they are not only copying the previous design, they are copying Hummy’s current branding too, which is worthy of a lawsuit.”
“Hit me up next time instead of copying my work,” she wrote.
As of press time, Hello Soju has not made a public response to the allegations. However, the Los Angeles company has made nearly a dozen promotional posts since Hummy’s Saturday Instagram post.