Trader Joe’s popular Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel, writes the LA Business Journal's Alfred Lee, "weighs three grams, measures less than a cubic inch and consists, as its name suggests, of a thin pretzel shell stuffed with peanut butter. It was an unheard-of technological marvel when the Monrovia retailer started carrying them 26 years ago." 'Millions of bags are sold every year, but the pretzel snack is now "at the center of a high-stakes struggle for control." From the LABJ story:
The fallout includes accusations of a ruthless peanut butter pretzel monopoly, the breakup of a decades-long partnership and competing cross-country claims to the snack’s invention.
The trouble began in the fall, when Trader Joe’s allegedly switched suppliers of the product, cutting out Aliso Viejo’s Maxim Marketing in favor of ConAgra Foods Inc., one of the largest food packaging companies in North America. The jilted Maxim has not gone quietly, launching a legal fight alleging antitrust violations and breach of contract.
“We pioneered these items,” said Terry Kroll, Maxim’s owner and chief executive. “We took something from nothing and built it into their top-selling savory snack.”
The pretzel crack-up has also offered a rare public peek inside Trader Joe’s, a company that, for all its customer-friendly attitudes, maintains an obsessive secrecy about its products and is known for aggressive cost-cutting with vendors.
Who knew? Trader Joe's declined to comment to the weekly journal. The story is pretty fascinating.