A proposed class action lawsuit claims Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream contains “at most, only a trace of real vanilla” despite representations on the product’s labels.
The case alleges that defendant Unilever United States, Inc. has defied both food labeling laws and consumers’ expectations by intentionally implying that its Breyers-brand ice cream is flavored with real vanilla. In truth, according to the suit, the product’s characterizing vanilla flavor is predominantly derived from artificial, non-vanilla sources.
“Rather than only containing real vanilla, Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream contains non-vanilla flavors and vanilla enhancers which are not disclosed, contrary to the legal requirements and expectations of reasonable consumers,” the complaint reads.
Given the front label of Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream displays pictures of vanilla beans and vanilla flowers coupled with the word “natural” and a scoop of ice cream with “noticeable specks,” the lawsuit claims a reasonable consumer would have no reason to believe the product’s characterizing vanilla flavor comes from non-vanilla sources. Further, consumers who view the ice cream’s ingredients list, which contains a reference to “natural flavor,” would assume the flavor components in the dairy product were naturally sourced, the case argues.
The lawsuit cites a November 2019 Rutgers University study in which laboratory analysis reportedly determined that “most of the vanilla flavoring” in Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream comes from non-vanilla bean sources. The chemical components of the product failed to line up with what is normally found in vanilla beans while containing an artificial flavoring ingredient that is known to “stimulate, resemble, or reinforce” vanilla flavor, the suit says.
According to the case, the amount of non-vanilla flavoring included in Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream warrants a disclosure on the front label stating that the product is artificially flavored.
Finally, the suit notes that the addition of “spent” vanilla bean seeds in the ice cream, referenced in advertising as “specks,” only add to consumers’ “false impression” that Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream contains “a greater amount of vanilla than it actually does.”
The plaintiff claims he and other proposed class members—California residents who purchased Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream since April 27, 2016 for personal use—would not have bought the product, or would have paid less, had they known the truth about the ice cream’s flavoring components.