A local food entrepreneur and restaurateur is being challenged by a national brand, and he's ready for the fight.

Kamal Mohamed, who owns the Minneapolis restaurant Stepchld and helped his family launch St. Paul's Nashville Coop, has broken into the retail space with a sophisticated take on the PB&J. Gallant Tiger sandwiches are circular, handheld sandwiches that forgo grape jelly in favor of blueberry bourbon sage jam, salted strawberry jam or chai spiced pear butter, paired with single-ingredient peanut or almond butter and stuffed into two slices of sourdough bread.

"For most adults, it's a nice change of pace in terms of flavor profiles and also ingredients," Mohamed said. "Kind of what Justin's peanut butter did with Reese's is what we're doing in this space."

If only the J.M. Smucker Co. saw it that way.

Mohamed got a letter from the Ohio-based food and beverage manufacturer's in-house trademark counsel, claiming that the company's trademark for the Uncrustables brand applies to the "round crustless sandwich design," as well as to an illustration of the sandwich with a bite taken out of it. (Gallant Tiger's packaging shows a cross-section of its sandwich with a bite removed.)

"We have no issue with others in the marketplace selling prepackaged PB&J sandwiches, but Gallant Tiger's use of the identical round crustless design and images of a round crustless sandwich with a bite taken out creates a likelihood of consumer confusion and causes harm to our goodwill in our Trademark," the letter says.

A company spokesman elaborated in an email to the Star Tribune: "We believe in and have always supported fair competition in the marketplace for the benefit of business and the good of consumers. Through the hard work of our employees and with significant investment, we have been able to grow the Uncrustables brand and products over the past 20 years. As a result, the round shape of our Uncrustables sandwiches has become instantly recognizable to consumers as a signifier of the brand. The Uncrustables design has received a federally registered trademark that Smucker, as a trademark owner, has an obligation to protect. Our intent is to ensure an amicable resolution and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with the Gallant Tiger team."

Gallant Tiger's attorney has already written back to the J.M. Smucker Co., and makes this point: "There are not very many shapes that a sandwich can be made into." Putting a square sandwich on a round plate is just not "aesthetically pleasing."

Besides, Mohamed said there is no mistaking his product from the one found in countless supermarket freezers.

"We're not in any way trying to say that we are a competitor," he said. "From a traditional trademark perspective, a customer would not mistake the two, because our price point is different, our packaging is different and our quality of ingredients is also significantly different. In fact, we're twice as expensive as the market leader. So if somebody saw us in store side by side, why wouldn't you just go with their product?"

The letter from Smucker's demands Gallant Tiger "permanently cease and desist from manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution of sandwiches that resemble" Uncrustables.

Mohamed said he has no intention of complying.

"They have two options that we think are clear. Either they can compete with us in the market, the good old American way, or they can invest in us. They can look at us and go, 'Wow, these guys complement us well,'" he said. "If they want to take the route of being the big bully, we're OK with that, too. But we're gonna make sure the public understands that this brand that they grew up with is trying to bully a small startup."

According to its letter, Smucker's makes almost a billion Uncrustables sandwiches per year, with an annual net sales of about $500 million.

Only two months into its launch, Mohamed says he makes "a few hundred" Gallant Tiger sandwiches a week. The $5.75 sandwiches are stocked at only a handful of local cafes: the Dripping Root, Dogwood Coffee and Get Down Coffee Co.

For having such a small presence, Mohamed admits he's a little flattered Smucker's has even noticed.

"We're like, this is a great sign. They're showing their hand," he said. "I'm saying, bring it. We want this fight. Let's see where it takes us."