The Coca-Cola Company’s claim that its “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak iced tea is sweetened with “50% less sugar” is the subject of a proposed class action lawsuit filed in New York. The suit charges that the Coca-Cola Company’s branding and packaging for “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea is “designed to . . . deceive, mislead, and defraud consumers” who may not realize just how much added sugar the product reportedly contains.
The 17-page suit alleges that while Coca-Cola represents that “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak is light on sugar, the beverage in truth contains “objectively high amounts” of added sugar. According to the lawsuit, although consumers are reasonably led to believe “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea is lower in sugar and added sugar, the product is “far from being ‘slightly sweetened’ and low in sugar” as sugar is the second most predominant ingredient in the beverage by weight. The case claims that drinking a “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea provides a consumer with 47 percent of their daily value of added sugars even though each bottle contains just 90 calories.
Stressing that consumers have been increasingly cautioned away from foods and drinks that are high in sugar, the lawsuit relays that products marketed as being “low sugar” are subject to stringent regulatory guidelines in order to prevent buyers from being misled with regard to nutrient content. According to the case, “low sugar” guidelines issued by the FDA effectively set boundaries with regard to what can be stated on a product’s label relative to both the absence of sugar and calories, e.g. “no sugar,” “calorie free,” and the amounts of sugar and calories, e.g. “fewer calories,” “less sugar” or “low sugar.” The FDA, however, has never authorized companies to claim on labels that a particular product is “low sugar,” and has sent warning letters to makers who the agency charges have misbranded certain products' sugar content, the complaint says.
With regard to the Coca-Cola Company’s “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak iced tea, the lawsuit argues that the “slightly sweet” claim reasonably leads a consumer to believe the product is lower in sugar and added sugar. The truth, according to the suit, is that “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea contains 24 grams of added sugar, which the plaintiff avers makes the product “far from being ‘slightly sweet’ and low in sugar.” The lawsuit argues that a product positioned as “slightly sweet” containing “almost half of [the] recommended daily sugar intake” poses a risk of harm to consumers, in particular to those looking to lower their sugar consumption or those with diet-related illnesses.
Further, though the labeling of “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea represents that the beverage contains less sugar and fewer calories than the regular variety, these statements “fail to cure the misleading message consumers get” with regard to just how much added sugar they are ingesting.
“Merely because the Products contain ‘less sugar’ than other tea products of the same brand does not mean they are ‘low sugar’ as understood based on the ‘slightly sweetened’ claim,” the lawsuit reads. “Even if the Products are authorized to make a relative sugar claim, it is still misleading to do so since a relative claim fails to disclose material facts about the overall sugar and added sugar.”
The lawsuit alleges that consumers would not have bought the defendant’s “Slightly Sweet” Gold Peak tea, or would have paid less for the product, had they known the Coca-Cola Company’s branding and packaging were deceptive. The lawsuit’s filing comes on the heels of a January 23 case against the Coca-Cola Company over similar allegations with regard to the “just a tad sweet” claims for its Honest brand of ice tea.