Can food producers have trade secrets?

| Aug 7, 2020 | Trade Secrets

When it comes to food, transparency is important. Consumers need to know what they are putting into their bodies, and all food products sold in stores have lists of ingredients and nutritional content. This doesn’t prevent people from buying things that are unhealthy or questionable, of course, but they have a right to know exactly what they’re buying. The ingredients cannot be kept a secret, as consumers could then be exposed to risks that they don’t understand.

This seems to suggest that trade secrets would be hard or even impossible to keep in this industry. If a company has to disclose its ingredients and the information is literally written on every package, how could they possibly keep that information out of the hands of the competition?

They can’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have trade secrets. The formulas and specifics are still secret. Consumers may know what ingredients they’re buying, but they don’t know the exact formulas, the amounts for each ingredient, how they’re mixed and prepared or what other steps are taken to make them unique.

Two common examples are Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coca-Cola. Both are very common and arguably at the top of their respective markets. To stay there, they protect the specific formulas that they use. The recipes are their most valuable resources. They can absolutely strive to protect these without deceiving consumers.

In cases like these, trade secrets are really what give companies an edge. Intellectual property is what helps them succeed. As such, it is very important for owners to know what rights they have to protect that information.