Friday, May 3, 2013

Davidovich vs. Dunkin Donuts Update-One Year Later

Davidovich vs. Dunkin Donuts Update-One Year Later


As many readers may recall, it was a little over a year ago when Dunkin Donuts rolled out it's National Ad campaign introducing it's "Artisan Bagels".  Although it quickly became evident that most viewers recognized that the products produced by Dunkin Donuts may be a lot of things, but they are not Artisan, we refused to allow this deceptive campaign to go unanswered.

Our first step was to reach out to Dunkin Donuts Corporate Headquarters and address our grievances.  We pointed out that we are aware that their fully automated production process can hardly be called Artisan.  Artisan, by its definition means, among other things "...high quality, distinctive product(s) made in small quantities...by hand and using traditional methods" (Dictionary.com).  Bakers like Davidovich Bakery, Bread Alone, and the Peter Pan Donut Shop are, by their very definition and practice, Artisan Bakers.  We also explained to them that by misleading, or confusing the public by claiming they were Artisan when they are not, they were devaluing  the most sacred assets Artisan Bakeries around the world cling to; their mark of distinction.  This is why, we argued, they must cease using this term improperly.  Dunkin Donuts did not even bother to reply to us.

We could have simply let it go; done nothing.  We could have hoped the campaign would fade away, or no one would take it seriously, but the stakes were too high.   As Artisan Bakeries we have made the choice to adhere to traditional methods and use manual labor in the production of our products at a great cost because we believe our methods produce a more genuine and better product.   For that sacrifice we get the privilege of calling ourselves Artisan.  Dunkin Donuts, obviously, understands the value of this moniker or they wouldn't have spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public that their bagel products were Artisan.  So we had no choice but to proceed to address our grievances.  

In April, 2012 we filed Complaints with the following agencies:

The Massachusetts Attorney General immediately passed on this case, indicating that they would "watch for a pattern of complaints..".   Being that Dunkin Donuts is a large taxpayer and employer in Massachusetts, I was not surprised. 

The Deceptive Advertising Division of The Better Business Bureau reached out to Dunkin Donuts and illicited the following response from Dunkin Donuts:

  "The word artisan, which has been used by other retailers ...is a common term used to describe quality food...We therefore believe it is a fair and appropriate word to describe the line of bagels featuring our new recipe.  As the number one retailer of bagels in America, we believe the word "artisan" underscores our long heritage of bagel innovation and leadership(4/24/2012)".

So, in plain English, they are suggesting that the fact that other retailers improperly use the term gives them blanket permission to do the same.  Furthermore, as the purported number one seller of bagels they, somehow, have the right to ascribe new meanings to English language words to meet their advertising considerations.   What was striking in their response, besides the sense of entitlement, was the fact that they never once suggested that they were, in fact, Artisans in their own defense.  This is because they clearly recognize that position is indefensible.

Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau has no authority to enforce any administrative actions.  They simply try to mediate a voluntary resolutions between parties.  In this case Dunkin Donuts had invested millions of dollars on an advertising campaign and were not prepared to voluntarily back down and neither were we.

The NYS Attorney General's Office referred our complaint to The Department of Agriculture and Markets.   While they agreed with our definition of the term Artisan, they issued this finding on April 2, 2013 "...until such time that the definition is incorporated into regulation, we are unable to take any action for what be perceived as an improper use of the term."  They, additionally, found that any action might be more properly within the purview of the Federal Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission is still "investigating" our complaint for deceptive advertising practices and, after one year, has not issued any formal ruling.  It would not shock me if they ruled similarly to New York State or to Massachussetts.  This inaction by governmental agencies has emboldened our cause and has lead to our next course of action.  

At every step along the way, we have chosen to forge ahead in this fight because we are passionate about what we do and we will not allow our hard work to be redefined by parties who chose to alter the language through deceptive practices designed to confuse the public about the true nature of our products an our processes.  We have been affirmed and re-affirmed by Artisan Bakers all around the world who have written to us to thank us for standing up for them and having their voice be heard in this cause.    (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-may-1-2012/back-in-black---artisanal-foods?xrs=share_copy )  We have formed the Artisan Preservation Society and we have reached out to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to ask him to spearhead the movement towards a Federal Artisan Certification program.  We envision this program to be modeled after the Organic Certification program, providing Federal standards to manufacturers and giving assurance to the consumer public that when they see the word Artisan associated with a product that it truly is an Artisan product. We await a response from Sen. Schumer.  Regardless of his response, we will proceed with this cause.  We will not grow weary.  We will not falter.  We intend to stand up for Artisans everywhere and let the world know our work has meaning and purpose.

Stay Tuned...