Chobani, LLC is the latest food company to face a proposed class action lawsuit centered on alleged misrepresentations of the amount, proportion and source of the vanilla flavoring in certain products.
Filed in New York, the 26-page suit says the label representations of the vanilla flavoring in Chobani’s “vanilla-blended” Greek yogurt are deceptive to consumers in that the product “contains non-vanilla flavors which imitate and extend vanilla” but are not derived from the vanilla bean. These additional flavors, represented in the yogurt’s ingredients list with the catch-all “natural flavors,” are not disclosed to consumers “as required and expected,” the lawsuit says.
The complaint, which expands upon items such as the use of vanillin to simulate vanilla flavor and apparent industry efforts to use less real vanilla even in the absence of any shortage, argues that it is misleading for a company to not declare non-vanilla flavors on a purported vanilla product’s front label. In this sense, the lawsuit notes that the labeling of Chobani’s “vanilla” Greek yogurt makes no mention of the presence of non-vanilla-derived “natural flavors” in the product, identifying only vanilla as the flavor source.
“The representations are misleading because the ingredient list reveals the Product’s flavoring owes to non-vanilla ‘Natural Flavors’ in addition to vanilla, ‘Vanilla Extract,'” the complaint claims.
In truth, despite the product’s front label, the yogurt’s ingredients list makes note of “natural flavors” the case claims are not derived from vanilla beans. According to the suit, as there is “no plausible basis to contain flavoring unrelated to vanilla,” the Chobani yogurt’s labeling must, “at a minimum” and by law, indicate the presence of these “natural flavors.”
“Use of the term ‘natural flavor’ on the Product’s ingredient list misleads consumers and implies it is a ‘natural vanilla flavor’ because the front label only discloses vanilla, so reasonable consumers will expect its source to be vanilla beans,” the case reads.
All told, the suit alleges Chobani has “sold more Products and at higher prices per unit” than it would have absent its apparent mislabeling of the vanilla yogurt. Chobani’s representations of the product were designed to “deceive, mislead, and defraud consumers,” the lawsuit alleges, arguing that the amount and proportion of vanilla, the product’s characterizing ingredient, is material to buyers.
The case claims that had consumers known the truth about Chobani yogurt’s vanilla flavoring, they would not have bought the product, or would have paid less.