Kind “No Refined Sugar” Claims Fail Reasonable Consumer Test, Court Finds
An Illinois federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Kind misleadingly labeled its Vanilla Blueberry Clusters as having “no refined sugars” despite containing evaporated cane juice (ECJ) and molasses. Ibarrola v. Kind, LLC, No. 12-50377 (N.D. Ill., order entered March 12, 2015). The plaintiff had alleged that ECJ and molasses result from refining sugar cane—albeit less refining than what is required to produce table sugar—and as a result, the label’s claim of “no refined sugar” was fraudulent, breached an express warranty and violated the state’s consumer-protection law.
The court found the plaintiff’s claim that she read the entire package, including the ingredients list, before purchasing the product contradicted her claim that she did not understand that the product contained partially refined sugars, noting that courts “have dismissed complaints premised on such logical inconsistencies.” The court also compared what she claimed to believe to what a reasonable consumer would believe upon reading the entire package; the plaintiff “claims, somewhat obliquely, that she understood ‘no refined sugars’ to mean that the Vanilla Blueberry Clusters contained only ‘naturally occurring’ sugars that had not been refined at all. But this is not plausible,” the court said. It found that the plaintiff knew the product contained a sweetener, but she apparently thought that it was “sugar cane in its natural state, not having gone through any process to refine it.” However, “sugar cane in its natural state is a grass that contains jointed stalks resembling bamboo.” The court further describes sugar cane and the process of extracting sucrose from the flesh of the stalk, finding that no reasonable consumer would believe that the Kind product contained sugar cane’s “indigestible,” unrefined form. Accordingly, the court dismissed the fraud and unjust enrichment claims.
The breach of express warranty claim was also dismissed because the purpose of its notice element is to provide the parties a chance to resolve the situation without proceeding to litigation, the court said, and the plaintiff failed to provide Kind with that notice. Because the plaintiff had amended the claims once and failed to cure the deficiencies, the claims were dismissed with prejudice.