Why Smucker's Sent A Cease And Desist Letter To A Small Sandwich Company

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

A Minnesota start-up has found itself in a bit of a jam this week after jelly giant J.M. Smucker Company — more commonly known as Smucker's — took notice of one of its products. According to Food & Wine, chef Kamal Mohamed, owner of Minneapolis' StepChld restaurant and founder of its Uptown Food Truck Festival, launched a new brand of pre-made, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that provoked the wrath of Smucker's.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that just two months after launching his new company, Gallant Tiger, Mohamed received a cease and desist letter from Smucker's, accusing him of violating its trademark for round, crustless sandwiches with his product and marketing materials, which show ones of the sandwiches in question with a bite out of it. Smuckers, which sells almost a billion of its "Uncrustables" sandwiches each year and last year announced the creation of a new manufacturing facility dedicated to the lunchbox staples in Alabama, has threatened Mohamed with further legal action if he does not immediately "permanently cease and desist from manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution of sandwiches that resemble" Uncrustables.

Taking on the competition

Gallant Tiger's sandwiches are similar to Uncrustables. Both products are prepackaged, round peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with crimped edges instead of crusts, which Smucker's does hold a patent on. Mohamed argues, however, that there is no confusing the Smucker's product with the one being sold by Gallant Tiger (per the Minneapolis Star Tribune). As reported by Racket, Mohamed said he wanted to make an elevated, grown-up version of a PB&J for a decade. The result of his experimentations are four vegan sandwich flavors: apple chili jelly and almond butter, chai spiced pear butter and peanut butter, salted strawberry jam and peanut butter, and blueberry bourbon sage jam and peanut butter. All the sandwiches are made with sourdough bread. Currently, they are only being sold at a handful of Minneapolis-area cafes, though Mohamed says he makes a few hundred of them per week for those locations, where they retail for $5.75 each — about $1.50 more than the cost of a four-pack of Uncrustables at Target.

Despite the shared shape, which he claims was for aesthetic purposes, Mohamed argues that the differences in packaging, price, and ingredients clearly distinguish Gallant Tiger sandwiches from Uncrustables and adds that they aren't serious competition for the bigger brand. Nevertheless, he says he will not back down, telling the Star Tribune he has no plans to comply with Smucker's request and communicating that "big bully" Smucker's should either compete with him traditionally or consider investing in his smaller company.