WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Newport Beach, Calif.-based candy maker LeafBrands, seller of the sandwich cookie Hydrox, has asked the Federal Trade Commission to step in to investigate alleged anti-competitive pressure from competitor Mondelez International, maker of Oreo cookies.
Leaf Brands, through the firm MoginRubin LLP, has asked the FTC to investigate the situation as the Mondelez had the “ability and incentive to engage in this misconduct because it served as Category Captain for several large national retailers.”
Hydrox was the original sandwich cookie; LeafBrands acquired the Hydrox brand in 2015.
Daniel Mogin, attorney for LeafBrands, said in a letter to the FTC that Mondelez “used this position and store access to employ dirty tricks designed to harm rivals and competition, such as hiding products or relegating well-performing rivals to undesirable shelf locations.”
The letter, addressed to commissioners Rebecca Slaughter, Rohit Chopra, Noah J. Phillips, Christine Wilson and Director Ian Conner, concerns the issue of Category Captains, who fill much of the self space at retailers across the U.S. In the practice of category management, the retail space of groceries and consumer products is carefully managed, often by outside “category captains” who share data with retailers.
MohinRubin is a law firm that describes itself as a “a premier competition law firm with a national practice and offices in Washington, D.C. and San Diego, Calif. Antitrust and competition laws protect competition market participants. Their sources are federal and state statutes and common law. They apply to most businesses across markets, products, services and sometimes across international borders. These laws strive for free and open markets that maximize honest competition on the merits and disfavor abuses of market power.”
Cookie Dates from 1908
The Hydrox debuted in 1908, a product of Sunshine Biscuits. Sunshine Biscuits was purchased by Keebler in 1996, and in 1999, Keebler replaced Hydrox with a similar but reformulated product named Droxies. Keebler was later acquired by Kellogg’s in 2001. Kellogg’s removed Droxies from the market in 2003.
LeafBrands is maker of revived candy brands including Bonkers, Wacky Wafers, Tart ‘n Tinys and Astro Pop. The Oreo is made by Mondelez International, which is the successor company to the Oreo’s original maker, Nabisco.
The company has been fighting the issue of shelf space since it reintroduced the Hydrox brand, including an August 2018 petition.