As eternally pessimistic German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, "It ain't easy being cheesy." No, wait, that was animated Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah — but either way, he's right. The parent company for Cheetos has taken legal action against a plant-based copycat, alleging that the new brand disparages Cheetos in several ways, including its name, logo, and slogan.
In February, the World Peas brand (and with that dad joke of a name, I'm already Team Cheetos) released a "crunchy puffed snack" that it said had more protein, more fiber, and none of those finger-staining artificial flavors as the "junk snack" it wants to replace. It called itself Peatos (OMG TEAM CHEETOS FOR LIFE), and it repeatedly mentioned Cheetos by name in its first press releases.
"If you look at the $4 billion puffed snack category, you find the dominant player Cheetos on one end bursting with taste and mass market appeal, but full of empty calories, and a variety of smaller, niche better-for-you brands with poor taste and limited market potential on the other end," World Peas CEO Nick Desai said. "Peatos gives you the best of both worlds." (He also couldn't resist taking aim at Chester himself, commenting that the "that corny Cheetah" might soon by on the endangered species list.")
If Desai and World Peas wanted to get Cheetos' attention, it worked. The Frito-Lay division of Pepsi Co. Inc., which owns Cheetos, heard the product's name, noticed the orange tiger and pawprints on each bag and the company's slogan — "Tigers Live Longer than Cheetahs" — and seems to have immediately called its legal department.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Pepsi sent Peatos a cease-and-desist letter, writing that the snack's name was "confusingly similar" to Cheetos' own (duh) and that it "dilutes" the brand. It also said that the company's slogan "falsely implies" that Peatos-eaters may outlive those who prefer the OG crunchy snack.
"Frito-Lay welcomes honest and fair competition. However, we cannot condone the misuse of our trademarks ... and free-riding on our investments in the Cheetos brand to elevate yours," Pepsi's senior marketing counsel wrote.
There's no denying that Peatos was straight-up thirsty for Cheetos, and there's part of me that wonders if it knew that its copycat campaign would have this result. Yes, they end up in a legal battle, but it also brings them a kind of brand recognition that they might not have had otherwise. (Personally, I had no idea that Peatos were A Thing until the cease-and-desist went public.)
And yeah, I'm still Team Cheetos. That "corny Cheetah" and I are gonna live forever.