Sibling-owned vegan shop The Herbivorous Butcher is in the midst of a trademark battle with food corporation Nestlé USA. In August 2017, The Herbivorous Butcher attempted to register the trademark “Vegan Butcher” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Shortly after the USPTO denied The Herbivorous Butcher the trademark—citing that the term was “merely descriptive”—Nestlé filed a trademark application with the USPTO for a nearly identical term, “The Vegan Butcher.” In September, as Nestlé’s trademark application neared approval, The Herbivorous Butcher filed an opposition with the USPTO to bar the company from trademarking the term, which has become crucial to the marketing and operations of the independent vegan butcher shop.
In 2016, Guam-born siblings Kale and Aubry Walch opened The Herbivorous Butcher—the first vegan butcher shop in the United States—to much fanfare, selling their house made deli meats, sausages, ribs, and cheeses. Shortly after opening, The Herbivorous Butcher raised criticism from media outlets for the use of the word “butcher” when applied to vegan products—terminology that has since become commonplace in American lexicon in large part due to the success The Herbivorous Butcher has seen in its years of operation. “We may be small but we are going to fight big to protect what we create, be it a recipe or a slogan,” Aubry Walch said. “We won’t stand by and let a powerful corporation attempt to take our intellectual property. We won’t be intimidated by the imitators, no matter their size.”
This year, Nestlé ramped up its plant-based offerings under its Sweet Earth brand—which it acquired for an undisclosed amount in 2017—with the October debut of the Awesome Burger and Awesome Grounds at select supermarkets such as Safeway, Wegmans, Hy-Vee, and Shop & Stop. This month, its plant-based burger will hit Costco stores in Texas and the Midwest, with a full nationwide rollout planned in the coming months. To complement the Awesome Burger, Nestlé developed the “PB Triple Play”—a package deal currently available to food-service providers and restaurant partners that includes vegan cheese, plant-based bacon, and the Awesome Burger patty, allowing for the creation of an all-vegan bacon cheeseburger.
The USPTO will handle the trademark dispute, with legal proceedings expected to continue through 2021.
VegNews has reached out to Nestlé for comment.