September 27, 2013
Did Monday, for some reason, just feel like a wonderful day to you? Were you overcome with this inexplicable feeling like it’s the 1950s again and everything is right in America, like we’re beating the Commies at their own game and watching Johnny Carson and going to sock hops and soda fountains?
That might be because Wonder Bread, which represents the food industry’s pinnacle of “Gee whiz!” processing, returned to a supermarket near you. Fittingly, its “new” packaging is meant to kindle a sense of nostalgia ( to me, it looks like a motif you’d see in a Laundromat in 1957).
Wonder had been missing from shelves since its maker, Hostess Brands, went bankrupt ten months ago. Flower Foods, which makes the Tastykake and Blue Bird brands of bakery goods, bought the brand. A group of investors bonded together to buy Hostess’ most famous item, the Twinkie.
What interests me about this story is what exactly it is that Flower Foods bought. As with all things in intellectual property, a “brand” is intangible. What are you actually buying?
The answer, of course, is that you’re probably buying any trademarks associated with the brand, copyrighted branding material and the recipe, which is most likely a trade secret.
Even if you buy all those things, though, can you still buy Wonder Bread as an entity? That is to say, is its character or essential nature somehow changed if it isn’t made by Hostess anymore? That’s both a practical question (i.e. Will Flower Foods tweak the recipe and change the taste) and one that is way, way more metaphysical than I ever thought I’d get about Wonder Bread.