Jam War Spreads to Federal Court

Smucker's sued by Bonne Maman owner over shared plaid lid design

A French jelly manufacturer says that J.M. Smucker’s has put them in a jam by stealing their customers with their new line of upmarket fruit preserves, according to a recent lawsuit.

Andros, the manufacturer of Bonne Maman high-end jams and jellies, and the Orrville, Ohio-based Smucker’s have lived in peaceful co-existence since 1984 when they hammered out an agreement over how to cut up the preserved fruit market.

Smucker’s, which has owned the trademark to its gingham patterned lid since 1975, allowed Andros to use the design, but only if its fancy fruit product was made outside the U.S.

Smucker’s, it would seem, ceded the upscale preserve market to Andros and staked its claim to the PB and J crowd. The Ohio company’s jelly jars were taller and narrower than the French company’s. Andros offers its wares in a squat, faceted jar with a mostly white label, with “Bonne Maman” prominently printed in a cursive font.

It’s been a pretty sweet deal for everyone since, but things got sticky when Smucker’s recently launched its Orchard Finest line of preserves, according to the lawsuit.

The company’s new line, designed by Ciulla Assoc, is marketed “to compete with European and domestic premium spreads.” They've kept the gingham lid, but used a wider, shorter faceted jar. The label is mostly white and has the words “Orchard’s Finest” printed in cursive font.

It's “an ownable structured jar design,” according to Ciulla’s pitch, which “carves out a distinctive space in the category.”

But Andros doesn’t see it that way. It has asked a federal judge to order Smucker’s to cease production of Orchard’s Finest.

“Since the agreement was intended to facilitate the use of the same mark by two independent, competing parties, it necessarily contemplated that the same mark would not be used on identical goods,” Andros’s lawyers argue.

The hard-won upmarket jam consumers that Bonne Maman has developed in the U.S. over the last 25 years are being poached by Smucker’s, the lawyers claim.

Smucker’s declined to comment.