Illinois-based food manufacturer Glanbia Performance Nutrition (Manufacturing), Inc. is facing a proposed class action over its alleged misrepresentation of the amount and quality of vanilla in its “ThinkThin” and “Think!” oatmeal products.
According to the suit, the inclusion of the words “Madagascar vanilla” along with pictures of vanilla beans and a vanilla flower vignette on the label gives consumers a false impression that the oatmeal’s vanilla flavor is derived from actual ground vanilla beans. In truth, although Glanbia includes “ground vanilla beans” in the products’ ingredient lists, the beans are present in the oatmeal “in the smallest amount by weight,” which the suit argues is likely to mislead a reasonable consumer.
“A reasonable consumer will expect the Product to contain the flavor imparted by actual ground vanilla beans,” the complaint reads.
According to the lawsuit, the liquid sweetener commonly known as vanilla is different than ground vanilla beans. When vanilla is extracted from its source beans, it leaves behind a “spent” bean devoid of the flavor of the well-known liquid known as “vanilla,” the case explains.
“The presence of ‘ground vanilla beans’ on the ingredient list is deceptive and misleading,” the complaint says, “because it gives the impression this ingredient contributes flavor because of the front label claim of ‘Madagascar vanilla’ coupled with the presence of almonds and pecans.”
All told, the lawsuit alleges that this misrepresentation amounts to “food fraud” and “ingredient list deception,” which it defines as “subtle yet deliberate misidentification and obfuscation of a product’s components and qualities as they appear on the ingredient list – ‘ground vanilla beans’ as containing actual vanilla flavor when they are devoid of any naturally occurring vanilla flavor.”
The proposed class covers consumers throughout the country who bought Glanbia’s ThinkThin and Think! Oatmeal products, with separate subclasses for all 50 states.