Duffins and cronuts: big business feeds on hybrid bakes

Updated on 14 October 2013 | 0 Comments

Fusing foodstuffs together is one of the trends of the year. But things are starting to get a little nasty...

Hybrid foods, mash-ups, portmanteau bakes… call them what you will but the trend among independent cafes and shops for taking two hitherto separate foodstuffs and blending them together shows no sign of stopping. Except now the big boys are moving in for a slice of the action.


Exhibit a: the duffin. This mix of the doughnut and muffin was created by Bea Vo at her bakery Bea’s of Bloomsbury in London some two years ago. Yet Starbucks has just been granted a UK Trade Mark Registration for a creation called, guess what, the duffin.

And it’s not even as if they’ve changed the recipe.

"I understand that Starbucks UK wants to cash in on this hybrid dessert craze – I get that," Bea says. "But to make a product that uniquely contains buttermilk, nutmeg, and raspberry jam, and to have the name duffin, not doughnut muffin, and to have claimed that their team of 'bakers' came up with it magically on their own, seems a bit odd to me, particularly when the British baking lexicon isn't heavy on nutmeg or buttermilk."

Cronut copies

Exhibit b: the cronut – a fusion of croissant and doughnut. Created by baker Dominique Ansel in Manhattan, it caused a sensation when it hit the streets earlier this year. And she was quick off the trademark to ensure her creation couldn't be stolen too. However, that hasn't stopped imitations popping up around the globe, with some even using the New York name.

In the UK, there have been plenty of variations on the theme and Greggs has just finished a one-month stint selling its version: the Greggsnut. Proof indeed that this hybrid concept has reached the mainstream.

What's next? Poor Bea's most recent invention (in tandem with a journalist), the Townie (tart and brownie), is reportedly being copied across the Atlantic.

Time to get nastier?

Having said all that, does anyone have the right to patent their creations? After all, in the online world, no food creation is truly sacred, is it?

Maybe not, but when big business can seemingly ride roughshod over not only an already established recipe but its own unique, original name as well, then maybe the 'innocent' sharing of ideas has gone too far? And it would be a real shame if every food invention has to go through the hassle and expense of a trademark application, just in case...

What do you think? Should food creations be allowed to be trademarked by anyone? Or is it theft to steal an idea and its name? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.

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