Chocolate Mountains: A Fight for Triangle Candy Bar Dominance in Europe

Chocolate Mountains: A Fight for Triangle Candy Bar Dominance in Europe

This is a story about a majestic mountain in Switzerland, two humpy hills in Shropshire, England, and two candy bars.

In 1908, a Swiss man named Theodor Tobler created a chocolate bar he called Toblerone. It consisted of 10 triangular shaped peaks all lined up in a row with spaces between them. It reminded many people of a row of Swiss alps, and indeed, after a while, Tobler had a drawing of the Matterhorn, the most famous Swiss alp, placed on its wrapper. Many believe that Tobler created the chocolate bar to remind people of the many mountain peaks in Switzerland, because of its shape. I am sure you are familiar with this. The Toblerone bar is famous not only for its shape and taste, but also for its red-and-gold wrapper. It is in supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere.

But then, last year, as the price of ingredients suddenly rose, the size of the bar in the UK shrunk and the number of peaks was reduced to nine by the simple expedient of making the valleys between the peaks larger. Nobody particularly liked this.

As a result, last spring a company called Poundland in England decided to do something about it. There are, in the County of Shropshire near their factory, two humpy hills called Wrekin and Ercall. The matter on the table at a business meeting at Poundland was whether they could create their own triangular chocolate bar, have it be 10 peaks instead of 9, make it with more chocolate and take away Toblerone’s business. Toblerone held an EU trademark on the shape of the bar. Was this shape still so distinctive that the trademark remained valid? And could this hold up when the shape was changed by adding valleys in a new bar? The lawyers for Poundland thought not.

Thus, last spring Poundland announced it would introduce a new triangular chocolate bar called “Twin Peaks.” Each of the 10 triangles would be as tall as the Matterhorn/Toblerone mountains, but would consist of two peaks each (20 in all) to celebrate the Wrekin and Ercall hills of Shropshire, beloved by all Englishmen. There would be smaller valleys like the old Toblerone and more chocolate in the mountains. They would package it in red and gold wrappers just like Toblerone, the same shape and size, with a different mountain on the wrapper.

Toblerone swiftly filed a suit against Poundland. And Poundland swiftly decided to hold off putting Twin Peaks in the stores. They’d try to work something out with Mondelez, the maker of Toblerone.

Poundland wrangled with Toblerone for the next few months. They had 500,000 candy bars with the red and gold wrappers now sitting in climate controlled warehouses, awaiting orders. Finally, a bargain was struck.

Poundland would be allowed to sell the 500,000 candy bars, but only after re-packaging them in a different color wrapper. After that, Poundland could re-design their candy bar with more chocolate or less chocolate for their two sacred hillocks, but the bar could not look like the distinctive Toblerone bar.

Poundland plans to do just that.

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