Chocolate giant Hershey Inc has successfully blocked the import of Cadbury sweets because, it says, it creates “brand confusion” with Hershey’s products.
Cadbury chocolate varies around the world. In the UK, the first ingredient in a classic Dairy Milk bar is milk. In the United States, where Hershey has the license to make and sell all Cadbury products, the first ingredient is sugar.
Thousands of fans in small shops across the United States and on social media have been urging Hershey to allow them legal access to their favourite British chocolate. Some have even called for a Boston Tea Party-like protest with plots to throw “inferior” chocolates into the nearest body of water.
Soon the US recipe may be their only choice. Hershey sued LBB Imports, which used to be known as Lets Buy British Imports, for trademark infringement and dilution, arguing that Toffee Crisp’s orange packaging was too similar to Reese’s peanut butter cups and that Yorkie bars were too confusing to people looking for York Peppermint Patties.
Hershey has the rights in the United States to sell York, Cadbury, Kit Kat and Rolo trademarks as well as Maltesers. British Maltesers are out too.
The lawsuit was settled after LBB Imports agreed to stop importing the disputed products. LBB Imports President Nathan Dulley says he estimates that about $50 million worth of British chocolate is sold in the US each year – a Hershey’s Kiss sized drop in the grand scheme of American chocolate sales.
While Nathan Dulley says Hershey’s case has merit, he thinks it’s petty and that Pennsylvania-based Hershey should have allowed the small amount of imports for the niche expatriate market.
“We did attempt to make an agreement. Ultimately, these decisions do affect small businesses across the country,” Nathan Dulley says.
“At end of the day you’re talking about a $6 billion behemoth – both businesses should be able to coexist.”
Hershey executives have said they want to protect their intellectual property and that they’d asked LBB repeatedly to stop importing the disputed chocolates. They have not commented on the social media call #BoycottHershey or the online petitions, including one posted on the White House website.
More than 30,000 people have signed the online petitions in protest and on Twitter chocolate lovers are milking the spat to condemn what they feel are chemical-laden, inferior Hershey products.
“Shame on you Hershey. Give the people what they want! #boycotthershey Good ingredients trump crap every time,” read one tweet.
In stores across the US, shoppers are buying as much of the so-called proper chocolate they can afford or carry.
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