Ghirardelli and Russell Stover have agreed to pay $750,000 to settle allegations brought by the district attorneys of several California counties, according to a Yolo County press release. The California counties alleged that the chocolate companies “packaged certain chocolate products in oversized containers which can give consumers the misleading appearance that they are purchasing more product than they are actually receiving.” In addition, Ghirardelli allegedly misrepresented the amount of cocoa in one of its products. “Consumers have the right to expect full value in their purchases and compliance with packaging requirements is an integral part of the process,” the Yolo County district attorney is quoted as saying. “We will continue to aggressively monitor businesses and prosecute those that violate consumer protection laws.”
A consumer has alleged that Nuts 'N More LLC's White Chocolate Peanut Spread does not contain the amount of milkfat required to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition of "white chocolate." Morrison v. Nuts 'N More LLC, No. 18-11192 (S.D.N.Y., filed November 30, 2018). According to the complaint, FDA requires white chocolate to contain "not less than 3.5 percent by weight of milkfat," but the white chocolate spread does not contain any dairy ingredients. "Because there is no additional milkfat to supplement the Product to meet FDA definition of white chocolate, the Product cannot be marketed as white chocolate and thus must be deemed imitation white chocolate," the plaintiff asserts. She alleges that she and other consumers paid a premium for what she believed to be white chocolate "and received an inferior Product than what was represented to them by Defendant." For alleged violations of New York…
Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging Clif Bar & Co. misleads consumers because its bars do not contain “real white chocolate.” Joslin v. Clif Bar & Co., No. 18-4941 (N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div., filed August 14, 2018). According to the complaint, “U.S., Canadian, and European regulators all define white chocolate as having at least 3.5% milkfat” while Clif’s White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bars do not contain any milkfat. The plaintiffs assert that they relied upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “rules concerning white chocolate” when purchasing the bars but allegedly learned after purchasing that the bars are “misbranded” because the labels do not clarify that the white chocolate is “imitation.” The plaintiffs seek class certification, damages, restitution, an injunction and attorney’s fees for alleged violations of California and New York consumer-protection laws as well as fraud.
The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint that a “100% Natural Ingredients” claim was misleading because the processing of the snack bar's ingredients did not comply with the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA's) criteria for use of the term “natural.” United Biscuits submitted a list of ingredients for its “Go Ahead Goodness” snack bars and asserted that all ingredients were made in a traditional manner. After ASA referred to FSA guidance, it determined that the refining of sunflower oil involves the use of chemical solvents and the process of creating reduced-fat cocoa powder involves the addition of potassium carbonate. Because the FSA guidance says neither the solvent extraction process nor the use of acid or alkali solutions is “in line with consumer expectations of ‘natural,’” ASA ruled that consumers would not consider the ingredients natural and that the advertisement was misleading.
An Illinois federal court has dismissed without prejudice a putative slack-fill class action against chocolatier Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc., ruling the plaintiffs provided only “bare-bones” factual allegations and failed to allege a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that would allow their state law claims to avoid preemption. Benson v. Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc., No. 17-3519 (N.D. Ill., entered February 28, 2018). The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief, finding they lacked standing because they failed to adequately allege a risk of future harm. “[A]lready aware of Fannie May’s alleged deceptive practices, Plaintiffs cannot claim they will be deceived again in the future," the court held. In addition to the products they did purchase—Fannie May’s Pixies and Mint Meltaways—the plaintiffs also alleged that packages of eight other chocolate candies contained slack fill and brought the action on behalf of consumers who purchased…
Researchers at the University of Surrey have evaluated the impact of "snack" labeling compared to "meal" labeling, reportedly finding that those who ate products labeled as snacks consumed “significantly more in terms of nearly all measures of food intake than those in the other conditions.” J. Ogden et al., “'Snack' versus ‘meal’: The impact of label and place on food intake,” Appetite, October 23, 2017. Eighty female subjects ate food labeled or presented as either (i) a snack to be consumed standing or eaten from a container or (ii) a meal to be eaten from a plate at a table. The research reportedly showed that subjects consumed “significantly more” chocolate and more total mass and calories when the food was labeled as a snack. The authors concluded that “label and presentation influence subsequent food intake both independently and combined which is pertinent given the increase in ‘snacking’ in contemporary culture.”
A putative class action plaintiff has filed a lawsuit alleging that Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. puts fewer chocolates in packages of individually wrapped, single-serving chocolate squares than the number advertised on labels. Brungard v. Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., No. 17-5873 (N.D. Cal., filed October 12, 2017). The plaintiff asserts that he bought chocolates in 10-, 17- and 40-count bags in various flavors “many times over several years” and allegedly found "one less individually-wrapped square in the packages he purchased.” According to the complaint, Ghirardelli told the plaintiff that the contents were based on weight rather than the printed servings on the label. Claiming violations of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, unfair business practices, unjust enrichment, consumer fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and false advertising, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, injunctive relief, restitution and attorney’s fees.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to launch a formal investigation into "Coco Loko," a "snortable chocolate" product that contains stimulants akin to those found in energy drinks. He argues that the product "isn't even pure chocolate" and is "chock full of concentrated energy drink ingredients masked and marketed under the innocence of natural and safe chocolate candy." “I can’t think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses,” Schumer said in a July 10, 2017, press release. “This product is like cocaine on training wheels.” Issue 640
Ferrero SpA, maker of Nutella®, has reportedly won a dispute in the Brussels Court of Appeal over a rival’s advertising that claimed its similar product was healthier because it does not contain palm oil. Ferrero sued Belgium’s Delhaize Group after the “Choco” maker launched an ad campaign claiming its “certified without palm oil” spread was healthier and environmentally sustainable. The court held Delhaize made illegal and unproven comparisons in its environmental and health claims about palm oil and ordered the company to end the campaign. The court also barred Delhaize’s use of the word “chocolate” on Choco labels because the product does not contain chocolate. See 7 Sur 7, June 2, 2017. Issue 637
Warner Brothers, the film studio that owns the rights to the Willy Wonka movies, has asked the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stop a Georgia craft brewer’s use of “Golden Ticket” as the name for a chocolate stout beer, claiming that the name could lead some to believe the filmmaker is promoting underage drinking. Warner Bros. Entm’t Inc. v. S. Sky Brewing Co., No. 91233169 (T.T.A.B., filed March 1, 2017). In the Willy Wonka movies, children who found golden tickets tucked inside chocolate-bar packaging won a tour of the chocolate factory and a chance to win a grand prize. Warner Brothers claims the name “Golden Ticket” is an “intent to capitalize” on the popularity of the films, alleging that Southern Sky’s beer is advertised as “reminiscent of a chocolate hazelnut candy bar and as creamy as chocolate milk,” reinforcing the “mental association”…