Starbucks and UK baker in ‘Duffin’ kerfuffle
CNN – The world has gone crazy for hybrid pastries.
In New York, fans continue to stand outside the Dominique Ansel bakery every morning to buy the fried, cream-filled hybrid known as the Cronut. Its popularity has since spread to London, and Starbucks looked to get in on the hybrid craze by unveiling their own “Frankenpastry,” a donut-muffin concoction called the Duffin.
On its website, Starbucks UK proudly noted that the company “sat together with our bakers” to create a pastry that combined “the iconic shape” of a muffin with “the elements of a traditional jam-filled donut.”
Sounds tasty, right? Not to Bea Vo.
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The London-based baker and owner of four Bea’s of Bloomsbury bakeries immediately cried foul, alleging that she has been selling the “Duffin” for more than two years
“The doughnut muffin has been published in my cookbook back in August 2011, but we had been selling them in the shops since April (of that year),” Vo told CNN. “They were originally called doughnut muffins, but our customers christened them Duffins — like Brangelina!”
Vo describes her “Duffin” as having the qualities of three doughnuts: a sour cream doughnut with its “crispy crust and large airy crumb,” a cake doughnut with nutmeg notes and a British jam doughnut filed with raspberry jam.
The batter is baked muffin style, but Vo notes her creation is dipped in melted butter for the “doughnut” effect, which she says the Starbucks version fails to do. It is then rolled in sugar and injected with jam.
“(Starbucks) doesn’t dip them in butter, so I don’t know how they call it a doughnut muffin,” laments Vo. “It just looks like a jam-filled muffin.”
Starbucks UK put their “Duffin” on the market last week, and Vo’s fans immediately took to Twitter, accusing the company of ripping off Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Vo says that because her “Duffin” recipe was featured in her cookbook as well as online reviews, Starbucks UK couldn’t have come up with the pastry on its own.
But what angered Vo the most is the July decision by Starbucks’ baked goods supplier, Rich Products, to obtain a trademark for the “Duffin” name. Vo and her supporters worry that such a move could force Bea’s of Bloomsbury to stop selling the “Duffin” by that name.
“If Caesar Cardini trademarked ‘Caesar Salad’, we would have 100 different names for the same salad,” said Vo.
“I think there is enough evidence that ‘Duffins’ have been around longer than Rich Products’ version, so they shouldn’t own the trademark. I want everyone to be able to sell ‘Duffins’ without fear of legal retribution.”
Vo says she is currently looking at legal options, but admits that can be expensive. She also says her business may be forced to look at other options to “almost be a guardian” to the term.
The online fury has led to Starbucks UK to issue a truce of sorts. In a statement released on its website Wednesday, the company said it “discovered” that Bea’s of Bloomsbury, among others, sold “Duffins.”
The Statement also noted that: “neither Starbucks nor Rich Products has suggested to Bea’s of Bloomsbury that they will attempt to stop them from selling their own Duffins.”
Starbucks UK did not respond to CNN.com’s request for comment. It is not known if Starbucks will introduce the “Duffin” or something similar to its stores in the United States.
Despite the détente, Vo believes Starbucks UK has failed to grasp the point when it comes to what many have called “Duffingate.”
“If you didn’t invent something, you shouldn’t trademark it,” said Vo. “Baking is a craft built on innovation and layering new ideas that come from other ideas. But give credit where credit is due.”