Chris Botticella knows the secret to those "nooks and crannies" in Thomas' English Muffins -- the way they cradle butter and jam, and after a good toasting, produce just the right crunch.
It's a secret that the muffins' makers have gone to great lengths to protect over 75 years, allowing it to rack up $500 million in sales annually of the toaster treats.
The company says only seven executives know all three parts of its winning formula for making the muffins -- including how much dough to use, the right amount of moisture and the proper way to bake them.
So it became alarmed and sued in January when Botticella, one of the trusted seven, decided to bolt and join rival Hostess, maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies.
Hostess Brands Inc. doesn't make English muffins. But that doesn't matter to the lawyers seeking to protect the trademarked "nooks and crannies" in a U.S. baking industry where four major players duke it out on supermarket shelves.