Smucker's Sends Cease and Desist to Small Business Making Round, Crustless Sandwiches

And it's not the first time.

Crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Liudmyla Chuhunova / Getty Images

Kamal Mohamed, the founder of acclaimed Minneapolis restaurant StepChld and the founder of the city's successful Uptown Food Truck Festival, thought his idea for an upscale PB&J would be an easy one. That is, until Smucker's got involved. 

Mohamed shared with the Twin Cities news site Racket that he'd been thinking about making an upscale version of the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich "for the past decade." This autumn, he finally launched Gallant Tiger, a crustless sandwich brand that pairs peanut butter with blueberry bourbon sage jam and chai spiced pear butter. "It's something with staying power," he shared. "You don't have to convince somebody to eat a PB&J sandwich, right? It's as Americana as a hot dog."

Unfortunately for Mohamed, the other thing that's as Americana as a hot dog is taking legal action. 

As first reported by the Star Tribune, Mohamed and Gallant Tiger have received a cease and desist from the J.M. Smucker Co. over the shape of its sandwiches. According to the letter, the Gallant Tiger sandwiches infringe on Smucker's trademark for its "round crustless sandwich design." The Ohio-based food and beverage giant also takes issue with Gallant Tiger's packaging. 

"We have no issue with others in the marketplace selling prepackaged PB&J sandwiches, but Gallant Tiger's use of the identical round crustless design and images of a round crustless sandwich with a bite taken out creates a likelihood of consumer confusion and causes harm to our goodwill in our Trademark," the letter states, according to the Star Tribune

Gallant Tiger's legal counsel has already replied, arguing that there are "not very many shapes" for sandwiches and that the round shape of its sandwiches is more "aesthetically pleasing" than its squared-off counterparts. Mohamed also says that the company will not comply with the letter's request that Gallant Tiger cease the "manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution of sandwiches." But he did have one other solution for Smuckers: Invest in them.

"They have two options that we think are clear. Either they can compete with us in the market, the good old American way, or they can invest in us. They can look at us and go, 'Wow, these guys complement us well,'" he shared. "If they want to take the route of being the big bully, we're OK with that, too. But we're gonna make sure the public understands that this brand that they grew up with is trying to bully a small startup."

Just how big is the round sandwich biz? In early 2022, reported that Smucker's produces 3 million Uncrustables a day, and the company raked in $511 million in sales of the squishy, round sandwiches during the previous fiscal year. 

"We have a lot of confidence that we can get to a billion dollars in the next five years," Tina Floyd, Smucker's Senior Vice President and General Manager of Consumer Foods, said at the time. By contrast, Gallant Tiger currently produces "several hundred" sandwiches weekly and distributes them at a half-dozen coffee shops in the Minneapolis area. 

Gallant Tiger isn't the first crustless sandwich company to receive an unwelcome letter from Smucker's in-house counsel. Chubby Snacks, a self-described "healthier, better-for-you" prepackaged PB&J, were round when it initially launched. According to Forbes, within 30 days, it too received a similar "cease and desist" letter about its snack's potential trademark violation. 

In response to the letter it sent to Gallant, a spokesperson for Smucker's shared with Food & Wine via email, "We believe in and have always supported fair competition in the marketplace for the benefit of business and the good of consumers. Through the hard work of our employees and with significant investment, we have been able to grow the Uncrustables brand and products over the past 20 years. As a result, the round shape of our Uncrustables sandwiches has become instantly recognizable to consumers as a signifier of the brand. The Uncrustables design has received a federally registered trademark that Smucker, as a trademark owner, has an obligation to protect. Our intent is to ensure an amicable resolution and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with the Gallant Tiger team."


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