Cast your mind back to 2021 and perhaps the strangest brand fight of the year was that between Aldi and Marks & Spencer over caterpillar celebration cakes. M&S' Colin the Caterpillar versus Aldi's Cuthbert the Caterpillar. Pretty much every supermarket sells its own variant of a chocolate caterpillar-shaped celebration cake. Even so, in April 2021, M&S announced it was taking legal action against Aldi, in a move dubbed 'Caterpillargate', arguing Cuthbert infringes its Colin the Caterpillar trademark.
Aldi has a particularly witty social media team so spun this into a marketing exercise, coining the hashtag #FreeCuthbert, and even going as far as commissioning plush Cutherbert the Caterpillar soft toys.
In May, Cuthbert received a slight redesign, and Aldi then pledged that all profits from sales of the cake would be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Things between the two brands quietened down until just before Christmas when M&S accused Aldi of copying its light-up gin bottles, although this story didn't seem to gain as much traction.
What's this got to do with Bath-based small business Choc on Choc? A Tweet caught my eye on the weekend. It seems that M&S has launched chocolate matches that bear an uncanny resemblance to Choc on Choc's long established product.
Launched as part of the chain's Valentine's Day range, M&S' Perfect Match gift (£3) features white chocolate matchsticks with pinky-red tips and the text 'Perfect Match' moulded into the stick. It's presented in packaging designed to look like a matchbox.
Compare this to Choc on Choc's long-established product (£8), which was launched in 2015. Quite similar, don't you think?
Choc on Choc took to Twitter and Instagram, and plenty of customers and fans agreed that the supermarket's product appears remarkably similar to the small chocolatier's long-established product. The British media then weighed in, such as this commentary from The Times.
It's a curious launch by a supermarket that is fiercely critical of rival supermarkets' similar products.
Thankfully though, this David and Goliath story has a happy ending. Choc on Choc reports that it has agreed a deal with M&S. To avoid unnecessary food waste, the supermarket shall continue to sell existing stocks of their chocolate matchsticks. Then, around Mother’s Day and Easter, the Choc on Choc product shall be sold in M&S stores as a limited edition!
Furthermore, the supermarket has agreed to accept more ideas from small businesses through its Small Supplier Programme. This platform enables small businesses to pitch ideas to M&S buyers, potentially offering huge growth to successful applicants.
While M&S' product perhaps should never have launched, it's good to see the supermarket is committed to swiftly putting things right, and it's a great outcome for Choc on Choc too.
Choc on Choc's Perfect Match Chocolates feature two 14cm matches cast in Belgian white chocolate, weighing in at around 40g each. Each one is capped with a pink-red tip and carries the words 'Perfect Match'. It's ideal as a Valentine's Day gift as well as an anniversary gift or a birthday or Christmas present for your other half.
For more realistic chocolate creations, take a browse through Choc on Choc's website here. I'm particular fond of the ultimate in chocolate biscuits (here) and the tastier take on a cheese board (here).
Do you think M&S ultimately did the right thing here? Could they have done more? Let me know in the comments below.