Friendly’s vanilla ice cream is at the center of a proposed class action lawsuit that claims defendant Friendly’s Manufacturing and Retail, LLC falsely represents that its frozen desserts are made with naturally derived vanilla. Despite representations on ice cream labels and in advertising, Friendly’s vanilla ice cream products allegedly contain artificial vanilla flavors that are falsely described as “natural flavors” in the products’ ingredients lists.
The lawsuit claims that Friendly’s vanilla ice cream products—which include vanilla varieties of its cakes, Signature Sundaes, Rich & Creamy ice cream, light ice cream, dessert cups, rolls, bars, cones, “Friendwiches,” and Big Friendly’s—display images of vanilla ice cream and tout the descriptor “vanilla” on the front of the packaging, leading consumers to believe that the products’ flavor is derived exclusively from vanilla beans. In the ingredients’ lists, however, there is no mention of vanilla beans, the case alleges, and instead only a reference to “natural flavor” (see below).
The lawsuit claims Friendly’s use of “natural flavor” must refer to artificial vanilla flavors, such as vanillin, that are sourced from non-vanilla bean materials.
“For the purposes of ice cream flavor labeling, vanillin (from non-vanilla sources) cannot be designated as a ‘natural flavor’ because it implies it derives from vanilla beans, whose flavor it simulates,” the complaint states.
Further adding to the deception, the case claims, is the defendant’s use of yellowish coloring in its ice cream products to simulate the color of real vanilla.
“This coloring,” the complaint reads, “makes the consumer (1) less likely to question or probe into the amount and type of vanilla in the Products and (2) expect the Products to be similar to other, accurately labeled vanilla ice cream products.”
All told, the lawsuit claims Friendly’s has deceived consumers into paying a premium price for its vanilla products as compared to similar products that are accurately labeled.