Are Utah’s cookies really at war?

A Crumbl Cookie billboard in I-15 shows the cookie company has expanded to almost all 50 states within five years. The “Utah Cookie Wars” continue as Dirty Dough and Crave push back against Crumbl’s lawsuit. (Andrea Zapata)

The “Utah Cookie Wars” continue as Dirty Dough and Crave push back against Crumbl’s lawsuit, filed on May 10 accusing the two cookie companies of copying their trademarks and other intellectual property.

While people side with their cookie of choice on social media, it may seem like the cookie market is a hostile place to set up shop. Smaller cookie entrepreneurs such as Ruby Snap and Süss Cookie Co. said the competition has been good for business, and the cookie wars don’t reach everyone in the market.

On May 10, Crumbl filed a lawsuit accusing Dirty Dough and Crave of copying their “trademarks and other intellectual property,” according to a statement from founder and CEO Jason McGowan on LinkedIn.

According to the statement, Crumbl has “recently been told by a whistleblower, with insider knowledge, that the defendant misappropriated this information.”

In response Dirty Dough founder Bennett Maxwell posted a similar statement on LinkedIn and insisted his company has done nothing wrong. Dirty Dough released new billboards and social media posts poking fun at the lawsuit and asserting their innocence.

Dirty Dough co-owner Wade Rasmussen said the lawsuit and the social media buzz surrounding it has increased public interest in their company, which opened a storefront in Vineyard this summer.

In response to a lawsuit from Crumbl, Dirty Dough has released new billboards to push back. Co-owner Wade Rasmussen said the lawsuit has increased interest in their business. (Bennett Maxwell via LinkedIn)

Are all cookies at war?

According to smaller cookie shops Ruby Snap and Süss Cookie Co., the cookie wars don’t reach everyone in the market.

Utah’s “foodie” culture has created the ideal market for bakers like Tami Steggell, founder of Ruby Snap in Salt Lake City. Since many Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Steggell said sweets are a popular replacement for things like alcohol, which Church members abstain from.

“Typically we don’t drink, we don’t smoke,” she said. “So what do we do? We create food, you know, that’s amazing and delivers an amazing experience.”

Rasmussen said the competitive market was intimidating at first. He and his co-owner Bennett Maxwell decided to set up shop because of personal connections to the state and its existing and enthusiastic customer base.

“People also buy a lot more desserts and sweets here,” Rasmussen said, and added they were “excited for the market.”

Rasmussen compared it to boats on the water that rise and fall together with the tide, no matter the size of the boat.

“In most markets when one particular industry grows, all of the companies within that industry grow,” he said.

Steggell’s bakery has been around since 2008. She has watched competitors pop up all around her in the last several years, but said the competition is healthy and pushes her business to improve.

“I feel that competition and the free market promotes you to offer a better product because you have to keep letting your customers know why you are better,” she said. 

Like all other entrepreneurs, each cookie business has to find their own unique offering to bring to the market. Ruby Snap differentiates itself by using fresh, clean ingredients, and Dirty Dough stuffs their cookies with mix-ins instead of focusing on toppings.

Süss Cookie Co., a mom-and-pop cookie shop based in Midway is on the smaller side of the cookie companies. Manager Stephanie Thompson said they’ve found their niche by offering to ship cookies and are happy with their corner of the market.

“There’s room for everyone,” she said. “We’re going to do our best and we’re going to produce the best quality product that we can.”

There really is room for everyone according to Thompson, who said they’ve had people from other cookie companies stop in to enjoy their unique take on the treat.

“They’re like, no, we want Süss,” she said. “When I hear that, it’s like awesome.”

Rasmussen, whose business is in the middle of a lawsuit with cookie tycoon Crumbl, went so far as to call the competition “fun.” He said the hype around cookies right now is boosting the market for everyone.

“People do their own little judgments and sometimes we win, sometimes they win,” he said. “Really what it’s getting people to do is go out and buy cookies and share treats with their friends and family.”

Steggell said she thinks the cookie boom is “trendy,” and the bubble has to burst eventually. She mentioned how cupcakes had become popular in the early 2010s but had slowly died off, leaving only the top businesses. As one of the original Utah cookies, Steggell said she’s confident Ruby Snap can outlast trendiness.

“I think when that trend is dead, Ruby Snap will still be around,” she said. 

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