A soft-centered cookie made with butter, caramel and a chocolate coating has landed a Quebec pastry maker in trouble – not over the product's ingredients, but over its name.
Master chocolate maker François Paradis and his wife Jouhaïnna Lebel decided to call the dome-shaped delicacies sold out of their pastry shop the Ouipette. And that caught the attention of food-industry giant Dare Foods, which found the name a little too similar to its mass-market marshmallow offering, the Whippet.
Early last month, Mr. Paradis got a lawyer's letter warning him he had 15 days to lose Ouipette and find another name.
"At first, I was flattered," Mr. Paradis said from his shop in Sherbrooke, Que. "Then I found it funny. I mean, it's funny that a huge company would be interested in us."
It would be hard to depict Mr. Paradis's small corner shop, Choco-Là, as a looming threat. Mr. Paradis makes his cookies out of a storefront with eight employees in a regional city nearly two hours east of Montreal, producing each cookie by hand and churning out about 100 a day.
Dare Foods, which is based in Ontario, has more than 1,300 employees and produces its goods out of seven factories in Canada and the United States, according to the company website. At last count, a decade ago, Dare was selling 44 million Whippet cookies a day, according to a media report.
Mr. Paradis sells his cookies, whose full name was Ouipette Deluxe, for $2.25 each. At a major Quebec supermarket chain on Friday, an entire box of Whippets was on sale for $2.99.
Dare Foods, which also makes Girl Guides of Canada cookies, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. A spokesman said the company does not discuss sales figures.
Mr. Paradis, 33, admits his homemade product was meant as an homage to the Whippet, a marshmallow-centered culinary icon in Quebec invented in Montreal over a century ago and branded as the Whippet in 1927.
But Mr. Paradis, who honed his chocolatier skills while working at high-end resorts in Tofino on Vancouver Island, refined the product by using dulce de leche for the soft centre, and ingredients for the rest of the cookie including pure cocoa butter and a French butter-cookie base developed by a chef from Brittany, France.
But Mr. Paradis, reached in his shop on Friday, said he wasn't prepared to pick a fight with an industry Goliath. He said Dare's lawyers told him the name Whippet was part of the company's intellectual property. Mr. Paradis estimates he spent $3,000 to change his goodie's name, along with all references to it on his packaging and store website. The cookie has now been christened the Pouffette Deluxe – and he hopes no one objects.