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Peanut Butter Pretzel Drama: Trader Joe’s Sued Over Allegedly Cutting Out Snack Pioneer

The delicious, imperiled peanut butter-filled pretzel (Photo by @marinate_me_baby via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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Before you destroy another bag of Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Pretzels in one sitting, you should know the grocery chain is being sued over them.Trader Joe’s is accused of cutting out Aliso Viejo-based Maxim Marketing from managing the supply of a product they say they pioneered, Los Angeles Business Journal reports. Maxim is alleging antitrust violations and breach of contract over Trader Joe’s going direct with ConAgra Foods Inc., which is one of the largest food packaging companies in North America.

Maxim’s owner and chief executive Terry Kroll says he helped develop the snack in the mid-’80s and brought it to the budding grocery chain in 1988, which at the time had 27 stores, all in Southern California. It wasn’t long before they became a staple, with Kroll claiming he sells $9 million worth of peanut buttery pretzels to the chain each year, which are produced by manufacturers, with Maxim acting as a middleman.

Trader Joe’s, which Fortune has called “obsessively secretive,” now is worth $11 billion, with more than 400 stores. With the number of smaller peanut-butter-pretzel-capable manufacturers disappearing or getting bought up, Kroll alleges the grocery chain cut a cheaper deal directly with ConAgra in October, and Kroll filed a $60 million lawsuit last month.

First Sriracha is in peril and now PBPs are all sorts of conflicted—none of our favorite foods is safe.

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