A proposed class action lawsuit filed in California claims ConAgra Brands, Inc. has falsely labeled a number of its Swiss Miss cocoa mixes as “simply cocoa” and “made with real cocoa.”
According to the complaint, ConArga’s representations of its five-ingredient cocoa mixes are false and misleading because the product is not made with real cocoa. Instead, the Swiss Miss products mentioned in the complaint allegedly contain alkalized cocoa, which the suit describes as a “highly processed cocoa of substantially inferior quality compared to its all-natural counterpart.”
The alkalization process begins with the transformation of cocoa beans into cocoa powder, the case says. Cocoa powder, the lawsuit states, is produced from the crushing of the edible portions of the cocoa bean—called “nibs”—into a fine paste, which releases and melts the nibs’ fat content, called cocoa butter. According to the lawsuit, the combination of cocoa powder and cocoa butter produces a chocolate liquor that’s then pressed between hydraulic plates to form hard “press cakes” before the excess cocoa butter is removed. These press cakes, the case explains, are then grated into fine powder that can be further treated through alkalization.
To alkalize cocoa, the lawsuit says, the cocoa is soaked in an alkali solution, which consists of a number of chemicals, that reduces the acidity of and gives a darker color to the powder while “detracting from the ‘real cocoa’ taste.” This process, according to the complaint, “radically alters the composition of the cocoa ingredient,” drains the cocoa of its health benefits and taste, and creates a product that is “drastically different from simple, real cocoa.”
The case claims that the labeling of ConAgra’s Swiss Miss dark chocolate hot cocoa mix misled the plaintiff, who allegedly bought the product for $5.60 under the assumption that it contained cocoa in its purest and simplest form. Had the plaintiff known that Swiss Miss contained alkalized cocoa, he would have either paid significantly less for it or bought a different product, the lawsuit claims.
“As a consequence of [ConAgra’s] unfair and deceptive advertising and manufacturing processes,” the complaint charges, “Plaintiff and other consumers similarly situated purchased and overpaid for Defendant’s Product under the false impression that the Product contained real cocoa.”
The lawsuit seeks to represent a putative class comprising all California consumers who purchased ConAgra’s Swiss Miss products within four years of the filing of the complaint.