Wakefern Food Corp. faces a proposed class action that claims the “Vanilla” Coconutmilk beverages sold under its Wholesome Pantry brand contain only a “trace” amount of vanilla and fail to disclose the presence of artificial flavors.
The lawsuit out of New York alleges that the product’s front-label representations—i.e., that the drink contains “Vanilla” and “No Artificial Colors, Flavors or Preservatives”—are “false, deceptive and misleading” given the coconut milk is predominantly flavored with vanillin and other artificial flavors.
In accordance with food labeling regulations and consumers’ expectations, vanillin and other vanilla-enhancing flavors are considered artificial when used to boost the taste of vanilla and must be disclosed on a product’s front label, the case argues.
While purporting to contain vanilla, Wholesome Pantry Coconutmilk allegedly fails to disclose on both the front label and within the ingredients list the presence of vanillin and other artificial vanilla flavors such as maltol and piperonal that, according to the case, “provide predominantly all of the vanilla taste.”
Indeed, the product’s ingredients list states only “Natural Flavors,” which, the case argues, indicates that the product’s vanilla taste is not derived from real vanilla sources.
Per the complaint, consumers are misled upon reading the “vanilla” statement on the product’s front label absent any qualifying statements such as “artificial flavor” or “artificially flavored,” and remain unaware that the amount of real vanilla in the coconut milk is minimal compared to the amount of flavoring provided by vanillin and other artificial vanilla flavors.
Moreover, by omitting “artificial flavor” from the ingredients list, consumers are unable to “double check” the product’s components, the suit adds.
The lawsuit argues that as a result of Wakefern’s deceptive branding and packaging, consumers purchased more Wholesome Pantry Vanilla Coconutmilk beverages, and at higher prices, than they otherwise would have “in the absence of this misconduct.” From the complaint:
“As a result of the false and misleading labeling, the Product is an [sic] sold at a premium price, approximately no less than $3.59 per 64 OZ, excluding tax, compared to other similar products represented in a non-misleading way, and higher than the price of the Product if it were represented in a non-misleading way.”
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