Trumpets have been a fixture of New Zealand summers since 1964, providing a delectable combination of icecream and gooey filling in a crisp waffle cone.
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STUFF Rachel Hunter at Tip Top ice cream factory in 2007. Her appearance on Trumpet TV adverts in the 1980s made her synonymous with the brand.

But a move by dairy giant Tip Top to send a cease and desist letter to top chef Ben Bayly’s new fine dining restaurant Ahi ordering them to stop calling their icecream dessert a Trumpet has left a sour aftertaste.

Ahi launched in central Auckland’s new shopping and dining centre Commercial Bay a few weeks ago after the Covid-19 pandemic had scuppered two earlier planned opening dates.

This week, Tip Top’s senior brand manager Rebecca Tanner wrote to Ahi’s owners to politely, but firmly, assert its trademark over the Trumpet brand.

“We see that one of your desserts is called “Trumpet”, and we’re thrilled that you’re fans of our Trumpet icecream,” Tanner wrote.

“However, we’re sure you will understand and appreciate that Trumpet is an important trademark to us, so we’re reaching out to ask you to please call your delicious looking dessert something else.

“We look forward to confirmation that this has been done.”

Bayly said he had simply wanted to pay homage to a great Kiwi brand.

“It’s an iconic dessert, and we don’t really have many of these amazing dishes. You could rattle off 20 French dishes as a layman, even more Italian dishes. But in New Zealand, what are our well-known dishes? When you think about a dessert it is right up there, it’s legendary.

“In fact it’s a missed opportunity for them because we’re heaping praise on them and paying homage to an iconic Kiwi dessert.”

The father of three added Tip Top Trumpets were his “one guilty pleasure at the dairy”.

His business partner Rebecca Nelson said Tip Top’s request was understandable.

“I found it really polite and completely reasonable. We were really happy to comply with their request, and changed the name of the dessert.”

On Friday, she sent confirmation to Tip Top that they had changed menu and the icecream was now known as a “Waffle cone – boysenberry and pōhutukawa honey”.

Author and food blogger Lauraine Jacobs labelled the Tip Top’s move “ridiculous”.

“What Ben’s doing there is absolutely amazing. He’s taking indigenous ingredients and adding to this wonderful picture of what New Zealand cuisine is.

“He’s recreating, reinventing something that New Zealanders can identify and relate to.

“For them to come in and be so pathetic, couldn’t they recognise that Ben’s doing something amazing and feel quite flattered? I would be flattered. I think that’s nonsense. Too many lawyers in this town, and not enough innovative thinkers.”

Ahi – meaning fire in te reo Māori – is billed as fine dining meets laidback sophistication, and offers modern takes on Kiwi classics such as boil up toast and hāngī pāua.

Linking the meals to the land is in keeping with Bayly’s philosophy of aiming to tell New Zealand’s food history.

The journey to opening Ahi was captured Three’s A New Zealand Food Story, an eight-part documentary which followed Bayly around the country as he met with artisan food producers and suppliers.

The icecream dessert (formerly known as Trumpet) exemplifies that approach: the icecream component has just two ingredients: buffalo milk from the Whangaripo Buffalo Cheese company and pōhutukawa honey.

“It’s the most simple ingredients you could ever imagine,” says Bayly, a former judge on My Kitchen Rules, and with a glittering resume of executive chef posts behind him.

The icecreams are served on the horns of a water buffalo that live on the same Northland farm that the milk comes from.

According to Bayly, there are two sides to New Zealand food.

“There’s the commercial industrial food that New Zealand is well-known for, producing intensively farmed dairy products and exporting them, and then there’s the smaller suppliers that grow the most amazing things. It’s not huge money, they do it because they love it.”

Prior to opening, Bayly spoke about the stress of launching a new restaurant in the middle of a pandemic.

He feared he would lose the family home over the mortgage and costs involved in launching the new venture.

“It was a very, very stressful time. We had the fear of God in us,” he said.

But Ahi’s co-owner Nelson says Ahi has been busy almost every day since opening.

“We’re all quite humbled,” she said.

Tip Top declined to comment.

According to the Intellectual Property Office, Tip Top Investments have held the Trumpet trademark since 1991. The trademark covers use of the word in connection with any ice cream products, including wafers, frozen novelties, confections and puddings and “confectionery of all types in this class”.

In 2019, Fonterra sold Tip Top to British-headquartered dairy giant Froneri for $380 million.

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