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Grillo’s Pickles files new lawsuit alleging N.J. company copied recipe for Whole Foods, Wahlburgers

Grillo's, based in Westwood, is accusing Patriot Pickle of misappropriating trade secret recipes and manufacturing processes.

A container of Grillo's Pickles. Grillo's Pickles

Another page is being written in the legal battle between Westwood-based Grillo’s Pickles and Patriot Pickle, a New Jersey-based company that makes pickles for Whole Foods and Wahlburgers. 

In fact, 59 pages have been written, comprising a new complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey. In it, Grillo’s combines previous arguments to allege that Patriot “misappropriated Grillo’s trade-secret pickle recipes and manufacturing processes” to create “virtually identical pickle products” for Whole Foods and Wahlburgers. 

Grillo’s says that Patriot’s actions threaten to drive the company out of business because the “copycat products” have big name recognition and are often sold at discounted prices throughout the country. 


Grillo’s also alleged that Patriot is duping customers into believing that Wahlburgers pickles are a higher-quality product. 

“Beyond stealing Grillo’s 100-year-old secret family recipes, Patriot, together with [Wahlburgers and its distributor] has lied and continues to lie about the nature and quality of its pickles, misleading the public to believe they are superior to Grillo’s pickles,” the lawsuit states. 

Patriot Pickle did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Patriot and Grillo’s first started working together in 2012, and both companies signed onto a mutual nondisclosure agreement. Grillo’s ended the relationship with Patriot, which it was using as a co-packer, in 2021, according to the complaint. 

The feud became public in January, when Grillo’s sued Wahlburgers, and Patriot. In July, Grillo’s sued Patriot and accused it of stealing its recipe and using it for a line of pickles sold at Whole Foods locations across the country. Those arguments were combined in the latest complaint, filed on Tuesday. 

Grillo’s originated in 2008, when founder Travis Grillo began selling pickles made using his grandfather’s 100-year-old recipe out of a hand-built wooden cart on the streets of Boston, according to the company. It was purchased in 2021 by California-based King’s Hawaiian Holding Co. Inc.


In the lawsuit, Grillo’s alleged that the sodium levels listed on Wahlburgers pickles are an exact match to those listed on Grillo’s while they were packed by Patriot. Recent independent lab tests found that the sodium levels listed for Wahlburgers pickles are inaccurate, and the actual sodium levels are “substantially higher” than what is shown on the label. The sodium levels for Grillo’s products were also inaccurate when they were packed by Patriot. Grillo’s has since corrected its labels and informed Patriot of the changes, but Patriot continues to use the erroneous information, according to the complaint. 

This “strongly suggests” that Patriot did not perform independent nutrition testing for Wahlburgers pickles, Grillo’s said in the complaint. 

“Instead, because Patriot is using Grillo’s trade-secret recipes and processes to manufacture Wahlburgers, Patriot simply used Grillo’s old nutrition labeling,” the lawsuit states. 

Whole Foods has sold pickles under its 365 brand for years, using a different formula and packaging with another co-packer. 

“It was not until it began using Patriot as a co-packer that Whole Foods 365 pickles’ formula and packaging became virtually identical to Grillo’s pickles,” the lawsuit states.