American sweet giant Cadburys has forced the Meaningful Chocolate Company, producers of the UK’s first fair trade religious chocolate tree decorations, to redesign its faith-based range after being advised that ‘Advent purple belongs to Cadbury’. The chocolates will be on sale at tomorrow's Christian Resources Exhibition North Event in Manchester this Wednesday and Thursday.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cotterell commented: "Cadbury should reflect that before they even existed, the colour purple was around and – perish the thought – after they have gone, it will still be here. You may own the rights to purple, but you can’t own the colour. Fighting some battles, even ones you win, can actually be demeaning. Far better to be generous, then no one loses.
“Funny though it is, I am reliably told that companies can, under some circumstances, own the rights to a colour and even the Church of England has a preferred shade of its own. But isn’t this a case where common sense might prevail? The Meaningful Chocolate Company is not a threat to Cadbury. The background hue of their packaging may resemble a bar of their much-loved Dairy Milk brand, but everything else about the product makes it clear that this is something distinctively different."
Last year the Meaningful Chocolate Company designed chocolate tree decorations to help parents and grandparents share the Christmas story with children. The box they came in was advent purple with a picture of Mary and Jesus on the front. In the box was a copy of the Christmas story and a Nativity character sticker set, used to decorate five blank chocolate discs.
However, the company has been advised by its legal team that Cadbury has secured the rights to the colour purple in the UK. David Marshall, from the Meaningful Chocolate Company, said: “We understand that anything that might be interpreted as purple needs to be avoided. For this reason we have changed the packaging of our religious Christmas Tree Decorations. This year advent is a warm red.”
Purple is the colour worn by clergy during Advent (in preparation for Christmas) and Lent (in preparation for Easter). Bishops wear purple shirts.
David Marshall said: “We believe there is little chance of confusion. Our box of Meaningful Christmas Tree Decorations are very different from Cadbury’s own decorations in a number of ways. Our chocolate is fair trade, Cadbury’s is not. A charitable donation is made from every sale, Cadbury do not do this. We have Jesus, Mary and characters on the front of our box and a copy of the Christmas story inside, Cadbury have a mostly white box with a snowman on the front and secular tree decorations in a plastic cover.”
Who owns purple?
Companies usually register a logo with various colour options but it is very unusual for them to have rights to large parts of the spectrum. Cadbury’s have fought to have purple (in particular pantone 2685c) recognised across the world. Their most recent application in Australia was rejected. Nestle-owned brand ‘Quality Street’ recently launched ‘The Purple Chocolate bar’ which is very purple. The Church of England has its own licensed shade of purple.
David Marshall said: “Cadbury’s was recently bought by Kraft, an American-based company known for its cream cheese. However, Cadbury was founded by British Quakers who had a strong religious faith. Cadbury's founders would, therefore, probably have welcomed products carrying the Christmas story to families in a fun way. We believe there is a place for faith in the Christmas and Easter chocolate market using a range of colours. To demand the rights to a colour, or anything near it on the spectrum, seems at odds with the spirit of the season.”
A spokesperson for Traidcraft, which is committed to working with smaller cocoa farmers overseas, said: “We’re delighted to be the sole stockist for the Meaningful Christmas Tree Decorations. We believe consumers are wise enough to distinguish between what big business does and our better-than-fair approach to ethical trading."
Last Easter, the Meaningful Chocolate Company introduced the Real Easter Egg, the UK’s first and only Fairtrade charity Easter egg to mention Jesus on the box.
The Meaningful Christmas Tree Decorations cost £4.20 or £4 if more than 20 boxes are ordered at a time. Church orders can be made through www.MeaningfulChristmas.co.uk or exclusively from Traidcraft. Orders should be made by the end of November 2012 as supplies are limited.