Snack brands go to court over popcorn trademark dispute

Dive Brief:

  • Amplify Snack Brands has launched legal action against Snyder’s-Lance after the latter announced plans to bring Metcalfe’s Skinny popcorn brand to the U.S. market, according to Food Bev Media.
  • Snyder’s-Lance acquired British popcorn brand Metcalfe’s Skinny last year, but until now has continued only to sell the product overseas. 
  • Amplify claims that if Snyder's-Lance sold the popcorn in the U.S., it it would be "willful infringement" of the trademark on Amplify's Skinnypop brand and would confuse consumers.

Dive Insight:

Disputes like this are nothing new. Competing companies have courted the same consumers with similar sounding names and ingredients for decades. Many of these products eventually live in harmony on the shelves because most consumers know what they like and are not fooled by items that appear similar to already loved brands.

Popcorn is continuing to ascend as a snack category in the U.S., as more consumers see it as a healthier choice than chips and other snacks. Snyder’s-Lance brands saw net revenue increase to $2.1 billion last year thanks in part of its popcorn brands, Kettle Chips and Snack Factory. The addition of the Skinny brand to the U.S. could keep those numbers on the rise.

The Skinnypop brand is currently the largest brand of popcorn in the U.S., with FoodBev estimating that its market share is almost 25%. But that share has been challenged in recent years as more companies are entering the space. In fact, private-label products are collectively the fourth largest player in U.S. popcorn, which is creating fierce competition as well.

In the UK, Skinny also has a large market share. Metcalfe's was the third-largest brand in terms of sales in 2016, with 13.5 million pounds — about $17.3 million. It makes sense to keep the brand name harmonized when introducing it to a new market, but it will be interesting to see how the court decides on the dispute.

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Filed Under: Manufacturing Corporate Policy
Top image credit: HeatherLion