Breyers “Natural Vanilla” Ice Cream Labeling California Class Action

This class action sues Unilever United States, Inc. over the labeling of its Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream. The complaint alleges that the company markets the product misleadingly, suggesting to consumers that it is flavored only by the vanilla plant. The complaint claims this is false because, it says, “much of the vanilla flavor comes from non-vanilla plant sources.”

The class for this action is all persons living in California who bought Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream for their own use and not for resale, since April 27, 2016.

The front of the ice cream container has the words “Natural Vanilla” in large letters, along with pictures of two vanilla beans and vanilla flowers and an image of the ice cream that contains specks that supposedly come from vanilla beans. The front of the carton also bears a “Rainforest Alliance Certified Vanilla” seal.

The ingredient label for the ice cream does not show any vanilla, however. It lists only “Natural Flavor.”

The complaint alleges that Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream “has, at most, only a trace of real vanilla, and what consumers taste is vanilla flavor provided by non-vanilla sources” including “non-vanilla flavors and vanilla enhancers…”

The “characterizing flavor” of vanilla ice cream is vanilla. The complaint reviews some of the requirements for the labeling of ice creams.

The complaint quotes part of the International Dairy Foods Association’s summary about natural and artificial flavors for ice cream: “Flavors which are derived from natural sources other than the characterizing flavor and simulate, resemble or reinforce the characterizing flavor, are considered artificial flavors.”

The complaint also quotes a 1983 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Opinion. It states that federal law “makes no provision for any natural flavors other than natural characterizing flavors…” This means that “FDA must treat all natural flavors that simulate the characterizing flavor as artificial flavors when deciding what name should appear on the principal display label.”

Also, according to the complaint, a November 2019 laboratory test of Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream “determined that most of the vanilla flavoring comes from non-vanilla bean sources.” It discusses some of the other findings, for example, that the ice cream “has elevated levels of vanillin evidences that the vanillin is from non-vanilla bean sources…” Also, it says the ice cream contains maltol, “a compound not found in vanilla beans, but which is ‘used to enhance the flavor and aroma of fruit, vanilla, and chocolate flavored foods and beverages.’”

The relevant section of the Code of Federal Regulations says that if a food contains both a natural characterizing flavor and an artificial flavor simulating it, and if the artificial flavor predominates, then the label should have the words “artificial” or “artificially flavored” before the name of the characterizing flavor (for example, “Artificially Flavored Vanilla”).

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Breyers “Natural Vanilla” Ice Cream Labeling California Complaint

April 27, 2020

This class action sues Unilever United States, Inc. over the labeling of its Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream. The complaint alleges that the company markets the product misleadingly, suggesting to consumers that it is flavored only by the vanilla plant. The complaint claims this is false because, it says, “much of the vanilla flavor comes from non-vanilla plant sources.”

Breyers “Natural Vanilla” Ice Cream Labeling California Complaint

Case Event History

Breyers “Natural Vanilla” Ice Cream Labeling California Complaint

April 27, 2020

This class action sues Unilever United States, Inc. over the labeling of its Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream. The complaint alleges that the company markets the product misleadingly, suggesting to consumers that it is flavored only by the vanilla plant. The complaint claims this is false because, it says, “much of the vanilla flavor comes from non-vanilla plant sources.”

Breyers “Natural Vanilla” Ice Cream Labeling California Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels