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Thomas’ English Muffins

They’re enticingly showcased in extreme close-up in TV ads: a landscape of craters on a bread surface dubbed “nooks and crannies,” suited for catching tiny pools of melted butter and bits of jam. That’s useful—so how does one replicate such nooks and crannies? It’s a secret, and one that’s well protected, with around $500 million in yearly sales at stake.

In 2010, a former employee of parent company Bimbo Bakeries USA, one of seven people worldwide who knew the secret of the nooks and crannies, came under suspicion before a planned move to competing baked goods company Hostess, according to The New York Times. Bimbo filed a trade secret lawsuit to prevent the employee from making the job switch.

The Times noted that Bimbo’s recipe manuals are called “code books” and, as with other trade secrets, the information on recipes and manufacturing methods is compartmentalized to help keep it secure. After taking the case to an appeals court, the employee was barred from starting the job at Hostess.