British chain Marks & Spencer has been baking Colin the Caterpillar for over 30 years, inspiring multiple imitations along the way.

By Jelisa Castrodale
April 19, 2021
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Aldi sign, M&S caterpillar cake, M&S sign
Credit: Getty Images / Courtesy of Marks & Spencer / Getty Images

Last September, British retailer Marks & Spencer celebrated Colin the Caterpillar's 30th birthday, and it's hard to know what kind of cake you'd serve to... um, a cake. The iconic swiss roll-style chocolate cake first appeared in stores in 1990, and although he's had a significant facelift since then—he's gone from flat fondant to well-sculpted white chocolate—he's still an immediately recognizable treat.

According to The Guardian, sales of Colin the Caterpillar cake hit an all-time high last spring, when M&S were selling around 15,500 a week. Unsurprisingly, other supermarkets have tried to replicate the smiling insect's success: Asda (whose cake is called Clyde the Caterpillar), Co-Op (Charlie), Morrison's (Morris), Sainsbury's (Wiggles), Tesco (Curly), and Waitrose (Cecil) have all launched their own Colin-ish copycats. But Aldi UK's version—which it's named Cuthbert the Caterpillar—is the one that has gotten the attention of M&S's legal team.

The BBC reports that M&S filed an intellectual property claim with the High Court last week, arguing that Cuthburt "rides on the coat-tails" of the OG insect cake. M&S wants Aldi to pull all of its Cuthbert cakes from store shelves, and agree that it won't sell any other Colin-adjacent products in the future. The two desserts are very similar, right down to their edible chocolate faces, but Cuthbert retails for £5 ($7), while Colin costs £7 ($9.80).

"Because we know the M&S brand is special to our customers and they expect only the very best from us, love and care goes into every M&S product on our shelves," a spokesperson for the chain told the BBC. "So we want to protect Colin, Connie [the Caterpillar, Colin's girlfriend] and our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value."

Although an intellectual property dispute is admittedly a big deal, Aldi UK seems to be handling it well—or at least its social media team is. The @AldiUK account is signing off on a lot of its tweets with the hashtag #FreeCuthbert, and it's been posting updates like "Cuthbert has been found GUILTY…of being delicious" and "Just Colin our lawyers." (It also branded M&S as "Marks & Snitches, more like.")

M&S has handled this in, well, a more M&S-like way. It's posted a picture of Colin labeled "the Original and Best" on its social media accounts. "You might have seen @official_colinthecaterpillar is in the news," it wrote. "Colin won't be commenting, but says thanks for your support."