AKRON, OHIO — The J.M. Smucker Co. has filed a lawsuit against Hormel Foods Corp. for seeking to block the launch of Smucker’s No Added Sugar variety of JIF peanut butter due to its blue lid. The Orrville, Ohio-based company is seeking declaratory relief and has accused Hormel Foods of tortious interference as part of a lawsuit filed May 26 in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio Akron Division.
In its lawsuit, Smucker has accused Hormel of unfair competition, “under the pretense that Smucker’s product, which uses a light blue lid and label, infringes Hormel’s unregistered trade dress rights to the color teal used in connection with peanut butter.”
Smucker further argues that consumers would not confuse its new JIF peanut butter product with Hormel’s Skippy peanut butter based on the color of the lid, and noted that Conagra Brands, another peanut butter manufacturer, also uses light blue packaging.
Founded in 1897 in Orrville, Ohio, Smucker is a family-run business specializing in food products. JIF peanut butter launched in 1956 and has been a top-selling peanut butter brand for almost 40 years.
Smucker said it believes Hormel was lobbing accusations at Smucker in order to harm the roll-out of Smucker’s JIF No Added Sugar product.
“In the food industry, including the market for peanut butter, manufacturers often use the color blue on either the packaging or an informational banner to identify the product as reduced sugar,” Smucker wrote in the lawsuit.
Hormel, founded in 1891, is a global food company with more than $9 billion in annual revenue.