Peanut Butter Pretzel Monopoly?! Trader Joe’s Is Going to Court

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Uh oh. It looks like dear old Trader Joe has himself a problem — a peanut butter problem, that is. Trader Joe’s, a privately held grocer typically known for its affordable food and great-tasting products, has a number of items that it knows will consistently draw consumers to stores, and one of those famous snacks is its peanut butter pretzels.

The concept is a simple one, but it has still been a business worth millions of dollars for Trader Joe’s. Now, one supplier isn’t happy about the way the snack’s market has turned, and and the company is ready to do something about it.

NPR reported Friday that Maxim Marketing, a Southern California company and a former business partner of Trader Joe’s, is suing the grocer for allegedly cutting the supplier out of the market it helped create. Maxim charges that it invented the peanut butter pretzel in the 1980s but now has been carved out of the market thanks to Trader Joe’s decision to switch suppliers to packaged food giant ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG).

Before the switch, Maxim had been supplying the grocer with the pretzels for 25 years. Maxim is suing both companies, and journalist Alfred Lee explained to NPR on Friday: “They’re suing for alleged breach of contract and also alleging the existence of a peanut butter pretzel monopoly. I realize that sounds kind of funny, but this isn’t some bite-sized niche, if you will. It’s a market worth tens of millions of dollars.”

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