Whilst most food and drinks are remembered just by their taste, there are also some that have become memorable for their appearance, specifically their shape. For instance, when you think of Coca-Cola, the image of its iconic contour bottle probably comes to mind, while you may recall the triangular shape of chocolate bars when you hear Toblerone. These shapes have become so closely associated with their respective brands that they have become recognisable symbols and registered trademarks.
Trademarking food shapes is not a new practice, and many companies have used this strategy to protect their brand identity, enhance recognition, and gain a competitive advantage in the market. Let’s explore some of the most iconic trademarks for food shapes.
Starting off with one of our examples above, Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic beverages in the world, and its trademarked bottle is just as recognisable.
The Coca-Cola bottle design, patented on November 16, 1915, remains easily identifiable today as one of the first examples of a beverage company using distinctive packaging to differentiate itself in the market. The original patent is now showcased at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., where visitors can appreciate the iconic design that has helped to shape the brand’s identity for over a century.
The iconic shape was first introduced the following year after its patent was granted. This was a strategic move after warnings that Coke’s original straight-sided bottle was being confused for copycats. The Coca-Cola contour bottle is said to have been inspired by the shape of a cocoa pod, and was meant to be distinctive enough to stand out from other soda bottles on store shelves.
Toblerone is a Swiss chocolate bar that was first produced in 1908 in Bern, Switzerland by Theodor Tobler and his cousin Emil Baumann. The name Toblerone is a portmanteau of Tobler’s surname and “torrone,” the Italian word for honey and almond nougat.
What sets Toblerone apart from other chocolate bars, aside from its taste, is its unique shape. Each bar is made up of a series of triangular peaks, resembling a mountain range, which is said to have been inspired by the Matterhorn mountain in the Swiss Alps.
The chocolate bar Toblerone has been successful in trademarking its triangular shape. It was decided that the triangular shape of the chocolate bar alone is distinctive enough to identify it as a Toblerone.
However, there have been legal challenges to Toblerone’s trademark. In 2017, Poundland claimed that Toblerone’s shape was no longer distinctive enough to be a valid trademark, in legal documents defending its right to launch a chocolate bar.
In 1956, Procter & Gamble’s food scientists embarked on a mission to create the ultimate potato chip. For years, customers had complained about the greasy, broken, and stale chips, and the company wanted to produce a chip that was crisp and crunchy, non-greasy, and could withstand the rigours of packaging.
They entrusted chemist Fredric Baur with the task of not only developing the perfect chip but also designing the container that would hold it. Baur worked tirelessly for years, overcoming many challenges and setbacks, until he finally succeeded in achieving both goals.
Now, Pringles are easily remembered by its distinctive potato chips that come in a distinctive cylindrical tube. The chips themselves are curved and stack neatly on top of each other inside the tube. This unique shape has earned its trademark and is actually called a hyperbolic paraboloid, a mathematical shape that allows the chips to fit together perfectly without breaking.
The Pringles tube is also trademarked, ensuring that no other chip company can use this shape.
Hershey’s Kisses have been a beloved chocolate candy for more than a century. The unique shape of these chocolates is instantly recognisable, and Hershey’s holds registered trademarks for the foil wrapper, paper plume, and the Kisses Chocolate shape.
When Hershey’s Kisses were first introduced, the printed paper plumes prominently featured the “Hershey’s” brand name. This helped customers differentiate Hershey’s chocolates from those of its competitors, emphasising Hershey’s quality and reputation.
The addition of the “Hershey’s” paper plume to the conical foil wrapper was a game-changer for Hershey’s Kisses. This unique and eye-catching packaging proved so effective at distinguishing Hershey’s chocolates from those of its competitors that Hershey’s filed for trademark protection for the design.
The trademark, registered as Number 0186828, was granted in 1924, cementing the iconic status of the Hershey’s Kisses packaging. This trademark ensured that no other company could use the distinctive Hershey’s Kisses packaging, giving Hershey’s a competitive edge in the marketplace.