Hotel Chocolat and Waitrose locked in #slabgate dispute

Hotel Chocolat has opened a new front in its chocolate war with Waitrose, issuing a legal threat and offering customers an “amnesty” on the supermarket’s alleged copycat bars.

The upmarket chocolatier is inviting anyone who has bought one of Waitrose’s sugar-heavy £2 bars to exchange it for a £3.95 Hotel Chocolat slab, which lists cocoa as the primary component.

Hotel Chocolat has also increased the pressure on Waitrose by instructing its lawyers to write to the supermarket demanding that it removes its bars from sale by the end of today and destroy them.

Hotel Chocolat co-founder Angus Thirlwell initially claimed on Twitter that Waitrose’s new line infringed the company’s registered design rights after someone sent him a picture of an advertisement for the chocolates in a newspaper.

He has since been tweeting about the allegations under the hashtag #slabgat

On Friday, May 18, The Guardian reported that Hotel Chocolat had instructed lawyers to write to Waitrose demanding that it remove the bars from sale by the end of that day and destroy them.

WIPR has been in touch with a Hotel Chocolat spokesperson today, May 22, who confirmed that “we are currently speaking to Waitrose” but that there is no further update.

The spokesperson added that customers who have bought a bar from Waitrose can receive a free Hotel Chocolat slab if they return an uneaten or unfinished Waitrose bar to the chocolatier. .”

One of the Waitrose bars – made of white chocolate with studs of meringue and strawberry pieces and named Eton mess after the famous pudding – is a combination almost identical to Hotel Chocolat’s concoction of the same name.

Waitrose’s caramel crunch bar also shares several characteristics with Hotel Chocolat’s Caramel & Co offering, while orange and coffee-flavoured iterations echo products that the chocolatier has discontinued.

Thirlwell said Hotel Chocolat had legal protection for its curved-edge design from the European Union’s intellectual property office.

“It’s inspired by what happens when you pour molten chocolate out on to a chocolatier’s marble tabletop because it spreads into a lovely curvy outline,” he said.

This is not the first time a chocolate producer and a retailer have gone to war over a chocolate bar.

It was reported that discount retailer Poundland decided to redesign a chocolate bar that was contested by Mondelēz International for being too similar to its famous Toblerone product.

Tom Collins, associate at Stevens & Bolton, said that in the latest case much will turn on how far Waitrose is prepared to defend the allegations.

“At the end of last year, the settlement reached between Poundland and Mondelēz over the imitation Toblerone bars allowed Poundland to sell off existing stock after agreeing to redesign, so we may see a similar deal struck over the coming months.”

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