SOUTH WESTWOOD, MA —
Grillo’s Pickles, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, is going to court with the well-known Wahlberg family’s brand over advertising disputes.
This week in New Jersey’s U.S. District Court, the first shot was fired in the ongoing food conflict. Grillo’s Pickles filed a lengthy lawsuit against Wahlburgers, claiming that the company made false claims about its pickles in order to steal business away from Grillo’s.
The lawsuit claims that Wahlburgers pickles were found to have detectable levels of benzoic acid, which is indicative of the presence of the artificial chemical preservative sodium benzoate, which was added to the product to increase its shelf life.
According to the complaint, “Defendants go to considerable lengths to mislead consumers into believing Wahlburgers pickles are free from such preservatives,” even though they do use an artificial chemical preservative.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the pickles sold by Wahlburgers “are formulated to taste nearly identical to Grillo’s pickles” and come in identical cans.
“Defendants’ claims thus dupe customers into paying premium prices for Wahlburgers pickles, even though they do not actually feature the premium attributes for which they are paying,” the lawsuit states.
Patriot Pickle, a New Jersey company, is also named as a defendant in Grillo’s lawsuit because it makes Wahlburgers pickles and is accused of stealing Grillo’s recipes.
Patriot Pickle was served with a summons on Wednesday; as of Thursday evening, none of the named defendants had responded to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs want the court to force Wahlburgers to alter the pickles’ recipe or remove the false advertising from their packaging. It further requests that the defendants pay for damages, profits, fees, and costs.
In 2008, Travis Grillo launched Grillo’s Pickles in the Boston area. He used a family recipe to create pickles, which he sold out of a wooden pickle cart he built himself. King’s Hawaiian Holding Co. Inc. of California bought the company in 2021.
Founded in Hingham in 2011, Wahlburgers was the focus of an A&E reality series. The chain had 52 sites as of the year 2021.