In Depth

Waitrose accused of chocolate plagiarism by Hotel Chocolat

Chocolatier offers ‘amnesty’ for customers who bought supermarket’s £2 ‘copy’

Waitrose is facing allegations of chocolate plagiarism in what The Guardian describes as “a hot-tempered dispute between rival factions of posh chocolatiers”.

The supermarket giant has been told to withdraw it's recently launched “Luxury Chocolate Bar”, priced at £2, by Hotel Chocolat.

The chocolate shop had issued a legal threat and is now offering customers an “amnesty” on the supermarket’s alleged copycat bars. Anyone who has bought one of the Waitrose bars can exchange it for a £3.95 Hotel Chocolat slab.

The terms of the amnesty state that customers must hand over the Waitrose version of the bar, either uneaten or unfinished, before the end of this weekend.

The developments escalate a plagiarism dispute that began when Hotel Chocolat founder Angus Thirlwell accused Waitrose last week of copying his flagship range of curvy chocolate “slabs”.

The Waitrose bars are a similar size to Hotel Chocolat’s and share a distinctive wavy edge that sets them apart from other, straight-sided chocolate bars.

Thirlwell first wrote to Waitrose “highlighting the similarity and asking them to do the right thing”, and also called out the supermarket giant on Twitter.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... but this crosses the line,” he said.

Thirlwell told The Grocer that the curved design was his original idea because when he started the brand all chocolates on sale looked the same.

He said: “Fifteen years ago when we were building Hotel Chocolat from zero, we wanted to create a solid chocolate product.”

“When I looked at what everyone else was doing with chocolate bars they all seemed like they had a accountant's spreadsheet imposed on them.”

“I was more excited by what happens when you pour chocolate and let it set to get a curvy outlines. It has a very distinctive curvy outline and not grids.”

Thirlwell has since told The Guardian he has not received a response from Waitrose, despite a spokesman for the supermarket saying: “We take the intellectual property rights of other businesses extremely seriously”.

Thirlwell said he was “surprised at the slow response... given their brand values and the clarity of the situation”. 

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