Anyone who has ever lived in the UK knows about Colin the Caterpillar. I dare you to produce a single Brit who hasn’t either had the delicious and fun chocolate cake at their birthday or at least sampled it at a friend’s. Don’t know what cake Karen from work likes best? Get her the caterpillar cake. Too tired to make your toddler’s birthday cake this year? Call Colin. It’s a staple – one so recognisable that it inspires delight across every demographic whenever it is brought out. It’s been one of the tastiest parts of our culture since 1990, and it connects us all.
But now in 2021 it’s creating a rift. Last week, the creators of Colin – Marks & Spencer – revealed they were seeking legal action against Aldi’s version of the cake – Cuthbert – due to the latter’s likeness to Colin. M&S claimed Aldi was “riding on the coat-tails” of their cultural icon’s success, and were worried consumers might think the two cakes are of the same quality. Harsh words coming from the heritage retailer, but Aldi is not taking the legal action lying down. It’s taken to Twitter to make light of the situation, firing shots in the form of memes, with its courtroom sketch of Cuthbert taking the stand being a personal favourite.
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The funny tweets have collectively received hundreds of thousands of likes and have been shared across multiple platforms. Aldi also brought back the controversial cake in stores (Cuthbert had actually been discontinued two months before M&S lodged a complaint) in order to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust and the two retailers’ mutual charity partner, Macmillan Cancer Support. In a tweet, Aldi asked M&S if Colin and Cuthbert could be “besties”. Sweet right? But this act is more than just an olive branch, it’s a clever power move that utilises humour and charity to diffuse the situation. After all, how could anyone sue a peace offering, charity-giving caterpillar?.
But the most confusing aspect of this whole feud, is why now? Cuthbert is not the first copycat caterpillar cake – Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op, Morrisons and ASDA all have their own versions. And, with Waitrose signing up to the #caterpillarsforcancer movement it seems Colin may be left with no option but to join in. Caterpillars assemble. Only in 2021.
PS. You know a news story is significant when it is satirised by Munya Chawawa and his take on Cuthbert vs Colin is a slice of genius.
By Lucinda Diamond, food and travel editor of CORQ.