London ice-cream restaurant Chin Chin Lab has kicked out a Unilever ‘inspiration team’ after they were found to be writing down the entire menu, consulting work books made by Ben & Jerry’s specifically about the restaurant, and trying every item.
Chin Chin Labs posted an image to its Instagram story yesterday showing the Unilever team snooping on the company, with the words “creativity isn’t copying” and explaining that his team had kicked the Unilever team out, adding “we can offer consultancy”.
— Chin Chin Ice Cream (@ChinChinLabs) July 16, 2018
Unilever employees reportedly asked Chin Chin members of staff if they could be taken to the kitchen downstairs and wanted to find out the ingredients of the company’s creations.
Founder Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur told Catering Today that his company is “not normally outspoken”, but “this time around we just felt compelled to highlight what actually goes on within the industry for our audience, if you do a bit of digging you’ll come across lots of products that are not just inspired by chin chin products but are direct copies, and the reality is our trademarks for our creations don’t offer protection because in the real world a big legal battle against Unilever would be so costly that we would have to shut our doors.
“Big corporate players brazenly and openly send ‘inspiration teams’ around to small indie operators all the time because they know there is no recourse. And at a time when consumers’ ethics guide what they purchase we wanted to get them to think about this. A counter-balance to those ‘ethically-sourced’ and oh-so-free-love hippy vibed adverts that (Unilever-owned) Ben & Jerry’s would have you believe.”
Since its opening in 2010 Chin Chin Labs has become well-known for its experimental approach to making desserts, with The Observer describing them as the “future of ice-cream”.
Catering Today has contacted Unilever for comment.