According to plaintiff Jonathan Chuang, consumers are being duped by phrases such as a “tasty treat you can feel good about,” given that the first, second and third ingredients in Mott’s Medleys assorted fruit snacks are corn syrup, sugar and starch, followed by fruit/veggie juice concentrates.
Similarly, the phrase, ‘made with real fruit & veggie juice,’ displayed prominently on the front of the pack, implies that the snacks in question contain a ‘significant amount’ of fruit & veg, argued Chuang, who is represented by The Stanley Law Group, The Richman Law Group and Geragos and Geragos APC.
Statements are factually true
US district judge Michael Fitzgerald, however, begged to differ, and has dismissed the suit on the grounds that the statements - ‘made with real fruit & veggie juice’ and ‘100% of your daily value of vitamin C’ - are objectively true, and do not imply that a certain amount of fruit/veggies are included, or that the vitamin C (which comes from added ascorbic acid) comes from the fruits in the snacks.
As for nutrition, consumers can see from the back of the label that the main ingredients are sugar and starch – not fruit, argued Fitzgerald in a September 20 order defendant General Mills said it was “pleased” with.
The packaging itself also “clearly states that the fruit snacks are not intended to replace fruit in the diet,” added Fitzgerald, who rejected claims that images of whole fruits on the front of pack were deceptive given that the snacks did not contain whole fruits: “Just as cartons of orange juice might feature images of oranges, the fruit snack labels feature images of the fruits whose juices or purees are ingredients in the fruit snacks.”
Ingredients list, Mott’s Medleys assorted fruit flavored snacks: Corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, pear juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, strawberry puree, carrot juice concentrate. contains 2% or less of: fruit pectin, citric acid, vitamin c (ascorbic acid), dextrose, sodium citrate, malic acid, potassium citrate, sunflower oil, vegetable and fruit juice added for color, natural flavor, carnauba wax.
Each 22.6g pouch contains 10g sugar and 80 calories.
The court is ‘dubious that viable claims can be alleged’ but grants leave to amend
After granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, with leave to amend, he said: “The court agrees that any attempts to amend the complaint to adequately state UCL [unfair competition law], FAL [false advertising law], or the CLRA [Consumer Legal Remedies Act] claims are likely to be futile, in light of its examination of the package labels at issue.
"However, plaintiff is granted one further attempt to allege violable claims… he may allege a quasi-contract claim as a standalone claim and may pursue injunctive relief.”
Steve Gardner, at Stanley Law Group representing the plaintiff, told FoodNavigator-USA: "We plan to amend, and hope to show the court why mere compliance with one regulation is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for overall deception. We hope we can show the judge why Mott’s can’t be allowed to get away with it."
Marketing 'real' fruit snacks
A similar case against Welch's fruit snacks has made more progress through the courts, however, with US Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon observing in a reported filed last August that, "A consumer would not be unreasonable as a matter of law in drawing the conclusion from this advertising that the food inside will contain significant amounts of the fruit pictured, and will be as healthy as the depicted fruit."
However, in Manchouck v. Mondeléz Int’l (3:2013-cv-02148) US district judge William Alsup said it “strains credibility” to think reasonable consumers would feel duped by 'made with real fruit' claims on Nabisco fruit newtons, adding: "It is ridiculous to say that consumers would expect snack food ‘made with real fruit’ to contain only ‘actual strawberries or raspberries,’ rather than these fruits in a form amenable to being squeezed inside a Newton.”
*The lawsuit - which was originally filed in state court and later transferred to federal court – is Chuang et al v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., Mott’s LLP, and General Mills, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-01875, central district of California.
(Dr. Pepper Snapple Group develops, manufactures, distributes, and sells snack products under various brands, including Mott’s, while General Mills produces, markets, distributes, and licenses the fruit snacks Mott’s makes.)
“A reasonable consumer could not be misled regarding the nutritional qualities or quantities of fruit in Mott’s fruit snacks.”
US district judge Michael Fitzgerald