A scrappy business owner who took on a behemoth of the Aussie vitamin industry has been ordered to stop ‘insulting’ his rival after his aggressive marketing strategy generated an avalanche of headlines – and millions of dollars in sales.
The decision follows a bitter dispute over the ethics of so-called ‘comparative advertising’ at the heart of a legal battle between two billionaire vitamin moguls: Jessica Sepel of JSHealth and Jimmy Servai of Life Botanics.
Ms Sepel’s company, based in Double Bay, is a premium vitamin brand aimed at young women. Its products help with everything from hair growth to metabolism to libido, with customers buying direct or from Chemist Warehouse.
Mr Servai’s brand, based in Nowra on the NSW south coast, markets almost identical vitamins but at a much lower price than JSHealth’s products. Its main stockist is Coles.
A dispute between the two companies – known as the ‘Vitamin War’ – erupted in 2022 when Life Botanics hired Sydney PR supremo Max Markson to manage the campaign, leading to a surge in news coverage highlighting how Life Botanics’ products contained the same ingredients as JSHealth but at a fraction of the price.
Ms Seppel went on a social media rampage, calling out Life Botanics for its ‘copycat products’ and shady advertising. He then called the lawyers.
JSHealth owner Jessica Sepel (pictured) has taken a budget vitamin brand to court for copyright infringement. On Thursday, he won his case against Life Botanics’ Jimmy Servai
JSHealth leans heavily on celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing to sell its vitamins. MAFS star Martha Kalifatidis (pictured) is one of the brand’s best-known ambassadors
Her legal battle began on Thursday when Ms Seppel successfully sued former Masterchef contestant Mr Servai and his company Australian Health Vitality for copyright infringement.
Mr Servai agreed to refrain from ‘insulting, disparaging, insulting or ridiculing’ Ms Seppel or JHealth or anyone involved in the legal proceedings.
High-profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou, SC, representing JSHealth, argued Mr Seervai and his company had an unhealthy obsession with Ms Sepel and were trying to use the JSHealth brand to sell its own products.
While this may be a legal victory for Ms. Seppel, some would argue that Mr. Servai is the true winner of the ‘vitamin wars” as his aggressive marketing approach – which he must now rein in – helped Life Botanics enter the competitive and highly profitable vitamin business.
Jimmy Cervai, owner of Life Botanics, was seen leaving federal court on Thursday
Life Botanics (right) makes a similar product to JSHealth (left), but sells for half the price, excluding what Mr Servai calls the ‘double bay brand tax’.
‘She takes him [Instagram] Posts and puts them on his own [Instagram] And taunting her, harassing her in a way that is totally unexpected,’ says Ms Crisanto.
In a statement of claim, Ms Seppel presented 54 instances in which she alleges Mr Servai ‘attacked’ JS Health on Instagram and promoted his ‘identical’ product as an alternative.
Ms Sepel rejected Life Botanics’ central advertising claim that both companies offered the same product, albeit at a cheaper price point.
‘[Life Botanics has]in trade or commerce, engages in conduct that is misleading or deceptive,” his statement of claim said.
In his defence, Mr Servai claimed that JSHealth was overcharging customers and was simply using a simple marketing tool called ‘comparative advertising’.
Ms Sepel’s Double Bay-based company is a premium vitamin brand aimed at young women. Its products help with everything from hair growth to metabolism to libido
A dispute between the two companies erupted in 2022 when Life Botanics hired PR supremo Max Markson to handle the campaign and a series of ads (one seen here) highlighted how Life Botanics products contained the same ingredients as JSHealth but at a lower price.
Mr Servai (pictured) portrays himself as an Aussie fighter in a ‘David v Goliath’ legal showdown, but Ms Seppel’s legal team has proved he actually has a multi-million dollar property portfolio.
Ms Seppel’s lawyer Sue Chrysantho SC (pictured) said Mr Servai had an unhealthy obsession with Ms Seppel and was trying to take advantage of the JSHealth brand to sell his own cheap products.
Ms. Sepel rejected Life Botanics’ claims that its vitamins were made from the same formulation as her own, and also denied that her company Life Botanics charged customers double the price for the same ingredients as competing products.
Mr Servai describes his products as ‘the Aldi version of the health industry’.
Ms Chrysantho said Mr Servai’s post, as well as the 60 Minutes broadcast about his business, implied that her client was a ‘noble rich man ripping off vulnerable people’.
The vitamin moguls’ court showdown began in March, with Ms Seppel alleging the former reality star had overseen a ‘campaign of discredit’ towards her through social media posts and an appearance on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes programme.
Mr Servai took journalist Tom Steinfort and a camera crew to the Federal Court hearing, telling Mr Steinfort he was feeling ‘nervous’ because he had never been in court before.
Mr Servai described the court battle as a ‘David v Goliath’ situation, while comparing himself to The Castle’s Daryl Kerrigan – a great Aussie fighter.
Ms Seppel’s lawyers filed an affidavit alleging Mr Servai, far from being a fighter, owns several properties on Sydney’s North Shore, worth more than $13 million in total.
In 2020, the Nowra-based businessman bought two houses near Balmoral Beach for a total of $11.6 million with plans to eventually knock them down and rebuild a single three-level residence with a swimming pool.
Ms. Sepel has an even bigger war chest: She and her husband, JHealth CEO Dean Steingold, have an estimated net worth of $426 million, the AFR reported.
‘Curry King’, as he was dubbed during his time on MasterChef, has spent the past decade honing his culinary research skills, founding food manufacturing company Essence Group which supplies supplements for corporate giants such as Woolworths, Aldi and Swiss and exports to China, India and the US.