The stock price of Hershey's fell by $3 on Monday, and it will fall much further if furious Irish and English ex-pats have anything to say about it given the fact that Cadbury’s chocolate made in the U.K. and Ireland will no longer be eligible for import to the U.S. thanks to a successful lawsuit brought by Hershey.
Due to a settlement with the Hershey's, Let’s Buy British Imports, (LBB), the leading importer of foods from Britain to America, has agreed to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas, The New York Times reported last weekend.
The company will also halt imports on other chocolates such as British-made KitKat bars, Toffee Crisps, Yorkie chocolate bars and Maltesers. Hershey claims that packaging on these items too closely resembles some of their U.S. products.
Hershey representative Jeff Beckman said these products were not intended for sale in the U.S. and companies importing the products were infringing on its trademark.
“It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress,” Beckman said.
In Sunnyside, Queens Noel Gaynor, the co-owner of the Butcher Block, the well-known Irish food products market, told the Irish Voice his own lineup of chocolate products had already been affected by the ban. He added that he's being bombarded by text messages from shocked customers since IrishCentral ran the story on Sunday morning.
Nearly three weeks ago, Hershey issued a writ against two or three of the U.K. and Irish chocolate distributers. It was the start of a chocolate war that has enraged the Irish and English living here like nothing observers have ever seen before.
Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, the co-proprietor with Nicky Perry of Tea and Sympathy, the beloved British tea shop in the West Village in New York, is enraged at the action.
“Their argument is that some of the products are infringing on their trade,” Kavanagh-Dowsett tells the Irish Voice. “It's not just the Cadbury's, they're also banning the import of Toffee Crisp, because they say the packaging is too close to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Now if you get confused between a Toffee Crisp and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I'd say chocolate's not your biggest problem. It's something to do with your eyesight and the fact that you are plainly stupid.”
The people who are aware of Hershey's are probably not aware of Cadbury's in the way that people who come to Tea and Sympathy to seek it out, Kavanagh-Dowsett says. If people here are familiar with the chocolate products from England and Ireland it's because they're from there or lived there. So there is no real question of competition.
Instead what's happening is a denial of culture and of free trade, he says.
“U.K. and Irish chocolate are a largish percentage of our business,” says Kavanagh-Dowsett. “It has an impact on us and a very unfair one. It's not as though we are trying to pretend the product we're bringing in is the American Cadbury's. If it helps I would be more than pleased to put up a very large sign saying this is not the American Cadbury's, this is the real one. It's not like we're trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.”
Hershey's argument is that some of the products are infringing on their trade.
“The other one they've banned is Yorkie bars because they're saying it's too close to the name York Peppermint Patty. But the plain difference, other than the name, shape and packaging would be that one is a yummy bar of chocolate and the other is a disgusting inedible hockey puck of minty nastiness. So draw your own conclusions. The whole thing is ridiculous really,” says Kavanagh-Dowsett.
Last year alone Reese's gross business was somewhere between $7 and $8 billion says Kavanagh-Dowsett. “I'm thinking us bringing in a few chocolate bars can't be impacting their business that much. I understand they own a trademark or a license to manufacture something brown and waxy that they then call Cadbury's in this country. But I'm not interested in selling their product. If their product was any good I'd be delighted to sell it, but it's not so I won't.”
On Monday a petition with Moveon.org had 11,722 signatures in favor of lifting the ban. “On our Facebook page there is the email and mailing address to the CEO of Hershey's. Please tell Irish Voice readers to feel free to write to him and tell him he's a complete and utter idiot. These bullying tactics to try and make people eat his disgusting product will not work. I'll do a taste test with them any day of the week,” Kavanagh-Dowsett said.
“They're going to lose face. It'll be a war of attrition and they have enormously deep pockets, much more than all the little mom and pop shops across the country.
“But it's about time we stood up against these bullies. If they want to invest in something other than legal fees why don't they make some good bloody chocolate?”