A California appeals court has determined that the “no sugar added” phrasing on Califia Farms’ Cuties tangerine juice does not imply to consumers that competitors add sugar to their products. Shaeffer v. Califia Farms LLC, No. B291085 (Cal. App. Ct., entered February 6, 2020). The lower court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the “no sugar added” representation was truthful.

The appeals court considered “statements a business affirmatively and truthfully makes about its product and which do not on their face mention or otherwise reference its competing products at all.” The court found that a “statement may be ‘fraudulent’ (and hence actionable) if it is ‘deceptive and misleading in its implications,'” but declined to hold as actionable truthful statements about a company’s own product when the argument is that a reasonable consumer would “(1) likely to infer from such a statement that the very same statement is untrue as to comparable, competing products, (2) likely to infer that the product at issue is consequently superior to its competition, and (3) likely to be deceived if the statement is true as to the comparable, competing products.”

“First, a reasonable consumer is unlikely to make the series of inferential leaps outlined above. Second, we are hesitant to adopt a theory upon which ‘almost any advertisement [truthfully] extolling’ a product’s attributes ‘would be fodder for litigation,'” the court held, and it found precedents from other authorities that reached the same conclusion. The court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal and awarded appeals costs to Califia Farms.

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