PICS “Vanilla” Soymilk Misleading Labels New York, Massachusetts Class Action

The Golub Corporation, which operates the Price Chopper supermarkets, sells a “vanilla” soymilk under its PICS brand. However, the complaint for this class action alleges that the product is mislabeled, because the unqualified “vanilla” representation leads consumers to think the product contains more real vanilla than it does.

The class for this action is all purchasers of the product who live in Massachusetts and New York during the applicable statutes of limitations.

Consumers these days avoiding artificial flavors. The complaint cites three studies that find that 62%, 71%, and 76% of consumers, respectively, avoid products with artificial flavoring.

Products with natural flavoring tend to cost more, but consumers are willing to pay more for them. According to the complaint, the demand for real vanilla has been increasing. It says, “Flavoring ingredients, especially for products labeled as vanilla, are typically the most expensive ingredient in a food, and vanilla has reached record high prices in recent years.” For that reason, food manufacturers search for cheaper ways of reproducing a “vanilla” flavor.

Standards for vanilla flavoring were established in the 1960s, with the Food and Drug Administration saying that “the purposes of the standards are to assure that the consumer gets what is expected when purchasing vanilla products.”

A paper by John B. Hallagan and Joanna Drake, of the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) notes, “The U.S. federal standard of identity for vanilla flavorings does not provide for the designation of any vanilla flavorimgs as ‘vanilla with other natural flavors’ or ‘vanilla WONF.’” The purpose of this omission, the complaint says, “was to prevent consumers from being misled by a small amount of vanilla boosted by artificial flavors, including vanillin.”

The complaint reproduces the PICS product’s ingredient panel, which lists “Vanilla Extract” and then “Natural Flavors.”

According to the complaint, “Hallagan and Drake state that where a product’s front label representation is ‘Vanilla’ without qualification, it ‘lead[s] consumers to believe that it is flavored with vanilla extract, or another vanilla flavoring derived solely from vanilla beans…’” This would not be the case if the product contains some other “natural flavors” in addition to vanilla.

When paired with vanilla, the complaint alleges, even if the “natural flavors” are actually from natural sources, the front label cannot designate the product’s flavoring as simply “Vanilla.” Under the vanilla standards of identity, when paired with vanilla, the additional flavors must be revealed as artificial flavors.

The complaint says, “The front label is misleading because it does not disclose the presence of the non-vanilla flavors on the front label…” Also, “[c]onsumers who read the ingredient list will expect the ‘Natural Flavors’ to refer to natural vanilla flavors instead of artificial vanilla flavors and are misled to believe that the Product contains more vanilla than it does.”

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

PICS “Vanilla” Soymilk Misleading Labels New York, Massachusetts Complaint

September 12, 2020

The Golub Corporation, which operates the Price Chopper supermarkets, sells a “vanilla” soymilk under its PICS brand. However, the complaint for this class action alleges that the product is mislabeled, because the unqualified “vanilla” representation leads consumers to think the product contains more real vanilla than it does.

PICS “Vanilla” Soymilk Misleading Labels New York, Massachusetts Complaint

Case Event History

PICS “Vanilla” Soymilk Misleading Labels New York, Massachusetts Complaint

September 12, 2020

The Golub Corporation, which operates the Price Chopper supermarkets, sells a “vanilla” soymilk under its PICS brand. However, the complaint for this class action alleges that the product is mislabeled, because the unqualified “vanilla” representation leads consumers to think the product contains more real vanilla than it does.

PICS “Vanilla” Soymilk Misleading Labels New York, Massachusetts Complaint
Tags: Contains Too Little of Featured Ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels