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Antitrust Law

Longtime supplier sues Trader Joe’s over claimed peanut-butter-filled pretzel monopoly

Posted Feb 21, 2014 6:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A longtime supplier of peanut-butter-filled pretzels to Trader Joe's has filed an antitrust and breach-of-contract suit contending that the supermarket chain conspired with manufacturer ConAgra Foods Inc. to corner the market on the snack treat.

The suit, filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that “ConAgra and Trader Joe’s have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy to eliminate competition in, and ultimately to monopolize, the peanut-butter-filled pocket pretzel market," a lengthy Los Angeles Business Journal article reports. The suit seeks $60 million.

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In 1988, plaintiff Maxim Marketing developed an exclusive line of peanut-butter-filled pretzels for Trader Joe's that grew along with the supermarket chain into a $9 million-a-year business. But after Maxim's turned to ConAgra to manufacture the pretzels, the lawsuit alleges, ConAgra used confidential information about Maxim's pretzel product to take over the contract last year by offering Trader Joe's a better price.

“We pioneered these items,” said Terry Kroll, an owner and CEO of Maxim's. “We took something from nothing and built it into their top-selling savory snack.”

ConAgra said the suit was without merit but otherwise declined to comment when contacted by the business publication. Trader Joe's declined to comment.

Hat tip: National Public Radio.

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