America Still Nuts for Cronuts as Chef Aims to Use Fame to Help Others

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A combination of a croissant and donut that debuted in New York in May has inspired plenty of people to stand in line, not just to sample one but to get a trademark for it, too.

New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery in the city’s Soho neighborhood started turning out its signature cronut pastry in May to the pleasure of thousands of customers who, thanks to foodie blogs and social media buzz, started lining up early each morning to snag their own.

In fact, so many fans started queuing up around the block (see brandchannel editor-in-chief Shirley Brady’s photo below)—that the bakery had to increase its staff and limit how many cronuts a consumer can buy, with each cronut going for $5 a piece. The flaky pastry has even spawned some less-than-legal activity, including cronut scalpers and the “cro-job.” 

Other bakeries took note and now cronut-inspired treats are also being sold across the US and overseas, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and even in London—much to Ansel’s chagrin, Bloomberg reports. His challenge, of course: to sustain the buzz and build his brand without becoming a one-note, cronut wonder.[more]

Ansel’s strategy: the French pastry chef filed for the “Cronut” trademark on May 19 and was followed by someone asking for the trademark for “cronut hole” on June 10 and a Texas company on June 17 for “cronut,” Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, a slew of bakeries are just using the term with no discretion. In response to backlash over Ansel’s trademark, staffers posted a note on Facebook explaining that the cronut situation is much like how McDonald’s and Burger King both sell hamburgers, but have separate trademarked products. 

The note addresses those who say that Chef Ansel is stifling creativity within the pastry business by trademarking the product that he did, after all, come up with:

“The decision to protect Dominique Ansel Bakery’s reputation and business was done out of responsibility. Insinuating that this somehow hinders culinary creativity in the world is preposterous. And it is strange and troublesome that those chefs/owners who feel enraged by our decision to protect our name hold themselves as innovators in the industry and yet are upset because they are being asked cordially not to copy (a trademarked name).”

It’s not deterring rivals. Jim Hausman, owner of the Swiss Haus Bakery in Philadelphia, started making what he called a cronut a week ago, CNN reports. He changed the name to Swiss Cro-crème, but customers still called asking if he sold cronuts.

“Instead of getting into semantics about language, we say yes we have our version of it,” Hausman told CNN. “The only thing that I’m aware that is similar is that it’s fried croissant dough in the shape of a doughnut. Otherwise, it’s our own.”

Other bakeries have simply changed the name of their cronut knock-offs to ‘croughnuts.’ However they do it, the products have been selling and the lines keep growing.

One thing’s for sure: if the bullying over the Cronut trademark gets any worse or the fad cools off altogether, Ansel sells plenty of other tasty baked goods—and is hoping to turn the lines and cronut craze to good, by raising (ahem) a hole lot of dough for charity.

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