The lawsuit detailed on this page was dismissed after the judge found that the plaintiff failed to show that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the ice cream bars’ label.
In a March 15 order, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos held that even if the product’s label does violate federal food labeling regulations (and the defendant argues that it doesn’t), the plaintiff failed to show that consumers are aware of those “complex regulations” and consider them while shopping.
Moreover, the judge found that the “rich milk chocolate” statement on the product’s label was not deceptive because the ice cream bars’ coating does contain chocolate and “no reasonable consumer would understand the representations on the Product’s label to mean that the coating contained only chocolate.” The judge shot down the plaintiff’s argument that the presence of vegetable oil means the chocolate is no longer “real chocolate” and pointed out that the label makes no claims that the coating is “only,” “exclusively” or “100%” chocolate.
“Thus, the Court finds that a reasonable consumer would not be misled into believing that the Product’s coating did not contain any vegetable oils,” Judge Ramos wrote.
Further, the judge pointed out that the Häagen-Dazs product’s ingredient list accurately identifies chocolate, coconut oil and vegetable oil.
Judge Ramos also criticized the consumer survey cited by the plaintiff, noting that “[t]he Court has the same questions as Dreyer’s: ‘Who conducted this survey? What were respondents told? Did respondents see the full package, including ingredient list?’” Per the order, the plaintiff’s “mysterious” survey does not support the plaintiff’s claims, and neither does a 2007 news article about “chocoholics in an uproar” or statements from Jean Hammond of “Kilwin’s Ice Cream Shops,” which has “no apparent connection to the Product at issue.”
The March 15 order went on to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims regarding consumer preference for chocolate made from cacao beans because it apparently provides greater satiety, taste, mouthfeel and health and nutritional benefits, noting that reasonable consumers do not purchase chocolate-covered ice cream bars for health reasons or satiety value.
The judge also threw out the plaintiff’s warranty-related, fraud and unjust enrichment claims for similar reasons and found that the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue injunctive relief.
Although the plaintiff proposed no amendments to her lawsuit, the judge gave her until April 6, 2022 to file an amended complaint. If she fails to do so, the case will be closed.
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A proposed class action claims the maker of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream bars has falsely advertised the product given the dessert, dipped in “milk chocolate” and covered in bits of almonds and toffee, contains vegetable oils.
According to the case, defendant Froneri US, Inc. has falsely represented on the packaging of its Häagen-Dazs Coffee Almond Crunch ice cream bars that the treat is dipped in “milk chocolate” without disclosing the presence of vegetable oil, specifically coconut oil, which the suit calls a cheaper, lower quality replacement for cacao fat that consumers would never expect to be in a product purporting to contain chocolate.
Consumers prefer that the chocolate in chocolate-flavored products be derived from cacao beans, the lawsuit argues. Per the complaint, cacao bean-derived chocolate provides “greater satiety and a creamy and smooth mouthfeel” in comparison to the “waxy and oily mouthfeel” and aftertaste provided by chocolate made with substitutes such as vegetable oil.
In light of real chocolate’s preferred status among consumers and the frequency with which it’s adulterated with lower-cost substitute ingredients, chocolate has specific labeling requirements that have been in place for over 50 years, the suit relays. For example, the optional ingredients in milk chocolate, the case states, only include cacao fat, nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners, spices, natural and artificial flavorings, dairy ingredients and emulsifying agents—and not vegetable oil.
The lawsuit alleges that since the box containing Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream bars represents that the product contains “rich milk chocolate,” with no qualification such as “milk chocolate and vegetable oil coating,” consumers falsely believe that the coating contains only chocolate ingredients. However, this representation is, at best, a “half-truth,” the case claims, because the chocolate in the product contains ingredients not found in real chocolate—i.e. coconut oil.
“The Product does not designate the chocolate as ‘milk chocolate and vegetable oil coating’ on the front label, which would tell consumers what they are buying,” the complaint contests, arguing that consumers do not expect “to resort to the fine print” in the ice cream’s ingredients list to find what should be disclosed on the front label.
The lawsuit claims the defendant’s packaging of the Häagen-Dazs Coffee Almond Crunch ice cream bars was designed to “deceive, mislead, and defraud” consumers, who would not have purchased the product, or would have paid less for it, had they known the truth regarding its chocolate content.
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