I am not Marie Callender. She has passed away while I am still alive and cooking. She is best known for pies while I am best known for pasta. Marie Callender is a famous brand name owned by ConAgra while Monique Deschaine is simply the name of the person who started Al Dente, Inc. and makes Al Dente® Pasta, the brand. Nevertheless, there is confusion brewing. Not around the names Monique Deschaine and Marie Callender, but rather Al Dente® Pasta and Pasta Al Dente, our close relatives.
If you are reading this blog, you know my story and you know my brand—Al Dente® Pasta. Since 1981, we’ve been the little pasta company that has never given up. We started with an idea and a great recipe and despite one obstacle after another, defied the odds to still be in business today. To top it off, many people consider Al Dente® Pasta their favorite pasta and often take the time to call or write to tell us.
Last April, people started calling us for other reasons. Yesterday’s example. A trucking company called to solicit our business. This would not have been unusual except for the fact that his company ships frozen foods and our product doesn’t need refrigeration. Finally, we realized that he thought we were Marie Callender’s Pasta Al Dente. Not a big deal, other than taking time out of our day to explain the situation yet one more time. Even Phyllis Marra, mother of our first employee, wife of our first investor, saw the Marie Callender ads on TV and thought we all of a sudden were going from word-of-mouth advertising to a million dollar campaign. In my dreams!
OK. I’ll get to the point. ConAgra has been heavily promoting a line of frozen pasta entrees called Pasta Al Dente. No, it is not a figment of your imagination–you do see the little circle R by the name Al Dente on every bag of our pasta. Yes, that does mean that we have the registered trademark for the name Al Dente for Pasta. Not for sauce, which is why our sauce is called, Monique’s. Not for restaurants, not for cookbooks, not for dentists, not for bump shops, not for recipes. We understand that and accept it. We were granted the federal registration for pasta. This is when you say to me, “That’s your name. That’s not fair. They can’t do that.” The only thing I can say is, “I wish it was that simple.” And, imagine how we feel!
I will keep you posted but needed to make sure that everyone knows: I am not Marie Callender. Al Dente, Inc. is not ConAgra. Al Dente® Pasta is not Pasta Al Dente. So, don’t be confused.