Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime “Vanilla” Tea Labeling Class Action

The complaint for this class action alleges that Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime Vanilla” tea is mislabeled, because the use of the word “vanilla” without qualifiers implies that the tea is flavored only with natural vanilla from vanilla beans. The complaint claims that this is not true.

The class for this action is all those who bought the product in New York or the other forty-nine states during the statutes of limitations.

Celestial Seasonings makes a line of herbal teas. The complaint reproduces an image of the Sleepytime Vanilla tea, which prominently features the word “Vanilla” and images of vanilla flowers. The back of the box contains a paragraph that begins, “Lovers of vanilla, rejoice! We’ve added the creamy flavor of rich vanilla to our original Sleepytime ® blend of floral chamomile, cool spearmint, and lively lemongrass…”

The ingredient panel lists “Natural French Vanilla Flavor” among other items.

The complaint says, “The Product purports to be a[n] herbal tea characterized by vanilla, which is false, deceptive and misleading because the Product contains non-vanilla flavors which imitate and extend vanilla but are not derived from the vanilla bean, yet these flavors are not disclosed to consumers as required and expected.”

Vanilla is in high demand, but it is also expensive and in short supply. Makers of foods and beverages are therefore interested in finding other substances to simulate or substitute for real vanilla flavorings.

One such substance is vanillin, which has been used since the mid-1800s. Most vanillin in commercial use nowadays, the complaint says, is not from the vanilla plant.

Vanilla’s labeling is governed not by the general standards for flavorings but by the standards specifically for vanilla. The complaint says, “This means that if a product is represented as being characterized by vanilla yet contains non-vanilla vanillin, the label and packaging must declare vanillin an artificial flavor.”

According to the complaint, “The Product’s designation of its characterizing flavor as ‘Vanilla’ without any qualifying terms … gives consumers the impression that its entire flavor … is contributed by the characterizing food ingredient of vanilla beans.”

Also, “[c]onsumers expect that where a food is part of a product name of a packaged food, that it contain[s] that food in an amount sufficient to characterize the product.” They therefore expect a “vanilla” tea to contain enough vanilla to independently characterize the tea. In this case, the complaint alleges that the designation “Vanilla” (and not “Vanilla-Flavored” or the like) leads consumers to believe that its flavoring is provided only by vanilla beans.

The two “standardized, exclusively vanilla ingredients” are vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring. Neither of these are listed on the ingredient panel. What is listed is “Natural French Vanilla Flavor,” which is not included in the standards of identity for vanilla products. What is it, then? The complaint says, “The most logical explanation of this ingredient is that it contains a de minimis amount of vanilla, custard-like flavors and ‘other natural flavors.’”

The complaint alleges that the product should be labeled as being “Artificially Flavored.”

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime “Vanilla” Tea Labeling Complaint

March 6, 2020

The complaint for this class action alleges that Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime Vanilla” tea is mislabeled, because the use of the word “vanilla” without qualifiers implies that the tea is flavored only with natural vanilla from vanilla beans. The complaint claims that this is not true.

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime “Vanilla” Tea Labeling Complaint

Case Event History

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime “Vanilla” Tea Labeling Complaint

March 6, 2020

The complaint for this class action alleges that Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime Vanilla” tea is mislabeled, because the use of the word “vanilla” without qualifiers implies that the tea is flavored only with natural vanilla from vanilla beans. The complaint claims that this is not true.

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime “Vanilla” Tea Labeling Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels