Warren Wilson has protected his products every step of the way. His wall of patents, right, includes drawings for everything from the plastic bottle used to squirt funnel cake dough into a pot of hot oil to the shape of his pretzel crisps. In fact, as shown on the upper left of the display, he has patented not one, but three, different pretzel crisp sizes.

In a competitive business, he says, the patents have come in handy more times than he can count. In the case of the pretzel shapes, the patents probably limited choices for Nonni’s Food Company, a large Chicago snack manufacturer, when it launched an upscale dipping pretzel competitor in July.

Nonni’s Pretzel Flatz packaging is remarkably similar to that of the Pretzel Crisps, but the triangular shape of the Pretzel Flatz are decidedly unpretzel-like. Copying the Wilson’s successful product, Nonni’s also placed its new-style pretzels next to the cheeses and dips. The launch of the Flatz included this statement: “Pretzels have been a popular choice in the deli. Sales of pretzels in the deli have gone up 315 percent, driven by the fact that they are lower in fat and are a more healthy option than other salty snacks.”

Wilson dismisses the Flatz, saying that they are thick and bread-like. He doesn’t think they will do well, and if he is right it could well be because Nonni’s was not able to go with the twisty shape long associated with the pretzel thanks to his patents.

And Wilson’s Pretzel Crisps have another advantage, at least at the ShopRite in Skillman that we visited the other day: A six-ounce package was priced at $2.49, compared to $3.49 for a similar sized package of Pretzel Flatz.

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