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Mayo maker to duke it out over stolen recipes

Posted On: Aug. 12, 2019 9:11 AM CST


May I steal your secret recipes? Nope, says Duke Foods in a lawsuit filed in federal court this month claiming its former vice president of sales allegedly stole secret recipes from the sandwich spread company made famous for its legendary mayonnaise, according to media reports.

Eugenia Duke, who invented the mayonnaise in an effort to feed U.S. troops during World War I, sold the mayo recipe and the sandwich businesses to separate companies in 1929, with Duke still producing its signature product, along with pimiento cheese and other dips.

The lawsuit claims Wyatt Howard, the company’s former vice president of sales who went on to work for a competitor after being fired in May, whipped up a scheme — using a laptop, personal emails and other methods — to steal Duke’s secret recipes and other trade secrets such as pricing and formulas.

According to the lawsuit, Knott’s Wholesale Foods Inc., which goes by Knott’s Fine Foods and now boasts Mr. Howard on the payroll, allegedly plans to use Duke’s recipes and business tactics “in an effort to gain a competitive advantage and attract current Duke Foods’ customers to Knott’s Fine Foods,” according to media reports.

Duke Foods wants a judge to stop the company from using its trade secrets and is seeking damages, according to reports.