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Duffingate: Did Starbucks UK Rip Off the Duffin?

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Photo: @beas_bloomsbury
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

Turns out the new Starbucks UK hybrid pastry the Duffin is even less imaginative than previously thought. A London bakery claims Starbucks ripped off their Duffin recipe, and then trademarked the term so that the bakery can no longer sell them. The scandal has even inspired its own Twitter hashtag: #Duffingate.

The bakery Bea's of Bloomsbury, with four locations in London, sums up its assumptions about what happened in a Facebook post: "I understand that Starbucks UK wants to cash in on this hybrid dessert craze--I get that. But to make a product that uniquely contains buttermilk, nutmeg, and raspberry jam, and to have the name duffin, not doughnut muffin, and to have claimed that their team of 'bakers' came up with it magically on their own, seems a bit odd to me, particularly when the British baking lexicon isn't heavy on nutmeg or buttermilk."

The Starbucks Duffin does appear to have the same basic components as Bea's. In their announcement blog post, Starbucks explains: "Our Duffin is filled with a raspberry jam; we've added just a hint of nutmeg to our buttermilk base and then covered it in sugar once baked." The bakery claims that because their recipe was published in their 2011 cookbook, and featured in online reviews (like this one by Zagat), Starbucks didn't just happen onto the idea themselves, but rather copied Bea's.

Bea's also learned that Rich Products has trademarked the term "duffin," which potentially means Bea's would not be able to sell their products with that name. (The trademark is from July 2013.) Bea's points out over Twitter: "Heard back from @starbucksuk who is claiming they did extensive searching and found no one selling the "#Duffin" online. really?" Bea's also claims that fighting the trademark would be cost prohibitive.

Starbucks UK has not yet publicly responded over Twitter or Facebook, or to the commenters on the Duffin announcement blog post. However, Bea's says Starbucks will soon release a statement permitting Bea's to continue selling Duffins. So stay tuned for that. Below, some of the key #Duffingate tweets:

· @beas_bloomsbury [Twitter]
· Starbucks UK's Sad Take on the Hybrid Pastry: The Duffin [-E-]
· All Starbucks Coverage on Eater [-E-]

Bea's of Bloomsbury

83 Watling St, London EC4M 9BX, United Kingdom