Portland- and chickpea-based dessert company Little Bean has changed its name to Little Chickpea due to legal pressure from baby food maker Gerber.
The megacorporation said that Little Bean was too similar to the name of its discontinued line of bean-based vegetable puff snacks for toddlers, called "lil' Beanies."
Little Bean's Peal District store added adding Little Chickpea to its signs and other graphics Tuesday, in a move that owner Micah Camden said was costly but should end the dispute.
Camden's other food innovations include Blue Star Doughnuts, Little Big Burger, Super Deluxe and, most recently, Baes, a fried chicken place in the former Ash Street Saloon in downtown Portland, around the corner from Voodoo Doughnut.
While the new name of the brand is Little Chickpea, the scoop shop itself is Little Chkpea, without the "ic."
The shop is a flagship operation, but the real money is in getting the product into supermarket freezers, and that takes a strong, legal trademark. Gerber had no plans to reintroduce its product and was unwilling to sell the name. Camden did not want to wait for it to expire.
Asked how long the fight with Gerber lasted, Camden told the Business Tribune not long.
"When we applied for a trademark for the name, the office told us that Gerber had a long hold on the trademark for Lil' Beanies. Though Gerber had no intention of launching the brand, the company decided to defend it. Our business model is around chickpeas, so we decided to own who we are."
He said the name came Little Bean just came to him when he was operating Little Big Burger. "It was fun, cute, and tongue-in-cheek. But when we opened, people were confused about what kind of bean it was. We decided to clear up the confusion and ultimately run with what's parallel to our model."
Camden treated his dairy and gluten allergy by using chickpeas instead of soybeans to make a frozen dessert with the feel of gelato. Working with chef Anthony Cafiero he also added baked goods, which are made on-site in the Pearl, as well as oat milk-based coffee.
Local sausage maker Olympia Provisions five years ago had to change to its current name, Olympia Provisions, after a trademark dispute with the International Olympic Committee, which has commercial dibs on the word "Olympic".
Little Chickpea's business is "products based entirely on the non-dairy, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, non-GMO, sustainably produced, environmentally-friendly chickpea."
"While we were less than pleased with the legal battle, we're happy for the clarification that came through the necessity to change our name," Camden said in a news release. "This challenge presented an enormous opportunity, forcing us to rethink our brand and what we're offering to consumers. The 'bean" in Little Bean was often confused for soybeans, commonly used in ice cream. I believe the mighty chickpea will revolutionize the non-dairy frozen dessert category."
"Frozen dessert" flavors at Little Chickpea's scoop shop include Szechuan Strawberry, Blueberry Bergamot and Orange Caramel, and pastries include apple buttercream puffs, chai fig bread, and gluten-free/vegan "pop-tarts."
Address: 1241 NW Johnson St.
Q&A with Micah Camden
What did the legal battle cost in time and dollars?
We are not disclosing the exact amount of time and money but I can say it was substantial.
Did you get advice from any other foodies about the change? Management consultants? Just lawyers?
Not really. We talked internally about the decision and reached out to peers in the marketplace. We heard over and over that people were gravitating to the chickpeas and our slogans. The chickpea brand jumps out at you and tells you everything you need to know about the product. We love that Little Chickpea says exactly what we are.
It absolutely matters. Soy is the largest genetically modified product in the world while chickpeas are sustainably-produced and environmentally-friendly.
Can you talk about dealing with Gerber? How were they?
Gerber had a discontinued product called lil' Beanies. It was a toddler snack made from dried beans, rice flour and other ingredients.
When are you opening the next Little Chickpea?
We will let you know as we have additional location announcements.
What are the economies of scale when you open a series of new places (including the chicken shop Baes)?
Because I own multiple businesses, I do end up with purchasing power.
Have you dreams of disrupting/trying any other industries? Convenience stores? Spas? Gyms? Pretty soon that's all downtown retail will consist of!
I do not have immediate plans to expand to other industries.
What other oddball substitutions do you think will work in fast food?
In terms of trending ingredients, right now oat is extremely popular. However, I predict everything we will see for the next couple of years will be chickpea. Right now, we are the only ones doing something sweet with it.
Why the Chkpea spelling for the scoop store?
This was a collective creative team decision.
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