Chobani Simply 100 ad campaign sparks legal spat with Dannon

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Chobani
Picture: Chobani

Related tags: Sugar

Chobani’s provocative new ad campaign for Simply 100 – which directly attacks the ingredient choices of two rival brands – has landed it in legal hot water, with Dannon’s lawyers demanding an immediate halt to the campaign and Chobani responding with a lawsuit.

The campaign​ - which flags up the use of so-called ‘bad stuff’ in rival products and implies that Simply 100 is a better, healthier, choice – includes a print ad featuring a picture of Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt with the phrase: “There’s sucralose used as a sweetener in Dannon Light & Fit Greek! Sucralose? Why? That stuff has chlorine added to it​.”

Next to a picture of Yoplait Greek 100, it says: “Look, there’s potassium sorbate as a preservative in Yoplait Greek 100. Potassium sorbate? Really? That stuff is used to kill bugs.”

Gen Mills: ‘We don’t think consumers appreciate this kind of approach.’

Chobani Simply100campaign-ad-Yoplait-comparison
Excerpt of an 'open letter' from Chobani appearing in leading newspapers this month

General Mills, which owns the Yoplait brand, told FoodNavigator-USA it was not impressed with Chobani's approach, however.

Media relations manager Mike Siemienas told us: “The statements made by Chobani in their latest attempt to sell more yogurt are entirely misleading, and we don’t think consumers appreciate that kind of approach.”

Dannon: ‘Ads are misleading and irresponsible’

Dannon was equally annoyed, telling us the ads were “misleading and irresponsible” ​and following up with a cease and desist letter demanding an immediate halt to the campaign, which it argued was false, misleading and deceptive, violating the Lanham Act, a federal law that protects companies from unfair competition, and New York state law

Chobani responded with a complaint* seeking a declaratory judgement that it “has not made false, misleading, disparaging, or deceptive statements or claims in connection with advertisements for various of its Greek Yogurt products in violation of the Lanham Act and/or New York state law”.

Chobani added: “The statements made by Chobani in the Simply 100 Campaign…were and are true and accurate…Chlorine is, in fact, added to the sucralose used in Dannon’s products. Sucralose is a disaccharide that is made from sucrose in a five-step process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydroxyl groups in the sugar molecule. The addition of these chlorine atoms converts sucrose (sugar) to sucralose, which is an inert, unreactive substance.”

Chobani: ‘This campaign is about giving consumers truthful and accurate information’

simply100-ad-vsDannon

Asked whether it was responsible to attack legal ingredients that are considered safe by the US Food & Drug Administration, Chobani’s chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness told FoodNavigator-USA last week: “These aren’t attack ads, these are tell-the-truth ads. They illuminate. Not all yogurts are created equal and we want consumers to make informed choices.”

Asked about Dannon’s reaction to the campaign, McGuinness said: "While I'm not surprised, I'm disappointed that Dannon and General Mills are focused on stopping people from having the facts about artificial sweeteners and preservatives. This campaign is about giving people truthful and accurate information so they can make more informed decisions about the food they buy."

Watch one TV ad from the campaign below:

*The case is Chobani LLC v The Dannon Company, 3:16-cv-00030, filed in the Northern District of New York on January 8.

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