As if keeping a steady supply of peanut-butter filled pretzels in your office kitchen wasn’t difficult enough already, ConAgra may have seized control of the preservative-free, marginally nutritious delight and with it the fundamental health of California’s economy. Because if the people powering our great state’s engines of innovation don’t have something to modulate their serotonin and blood sugar at the office they’ll no longer be able to work the ten hour days and six day weeks that have become commonplace and productivity will suffer across the board.
Aliso Viejo’s Maxim Foods originally invented the recipe for the savory-and-slightly-sweet snack and began selling the product to retailers including Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia. To produce the marvels of food science, the company contracted with Anderson Bakery in Pennsylvania, which was then blended into National Pretzel in 1999, which in 2011 was stuffed into Nebraska’s ConAgra before being liberally salted.
Coincidentally! Now that ConAgra owned the means of peanut butter filled pretzel production almost exclusively, it started fulfilling Trader Joe’s orders directly last year—leaving nothing but crumbs in the bottom of the big, business-sized jar, alleges Maxim. The lawsuit accuses ConAgra of violating confidentiality provisions in contracts with the original production contractor, delivering a product to Trader Joe’s in the same packaging, which the latter then sold to customers as the same price (currently $3.79 for a one pound bag, up from $2.39 when Ruth Reichl at the LA Times gave it a stellar review in 1990). Including treble damages under state anti-trust laws, Maxim is seeking $60 million.
People are already looking for alternatives if evidence of comparison shopping between the H.K. Anderson brand available form Costco (definitely ConAgra) and the Herr’s brand (pretty sure also ConAgra) is any indication. Snyder’s of Hanover, a subsidiary of North Carolina’s Lance, Inc. offers a peanut butter filled mini-pretzel sandwich, which looks messy and therefore work-inappropriate. Good Health Natural Products, another North Carolina company, sells a whole wheat version that’s available at local Safeway stores, but good luck convincing your office manager to spend nearly twice as much when they’re already gone before the next delivery every week.