The lemon-flavored S. Pellegrino Essenza variety of San Pellegrino-brand sparkling water is made with less real lemon than consumers are led to believe, a proposed class action claims.
The 16-page suit against San Pellegrino maker BlueTriton Brands more specifically alleges the company’s labeling of the S. Pellegrino Essenza product violates federal and state food labeling regulations in that it misleads consumers as to “the relative amount and quantity of lemon ingredients.” The S. Pellegrino Essenza ingredients list reveals the beverage’s lemon flavor comes from “natural flavors,” or cheaper, concentrated compounds that imitate the taste of lemon, the case claims.
The representations on the product’s label—including the words “Lemon & Lemon Zest”; images of cut lemons, lemon peels and leaves; and the covering of the bottle in yellow cellophane—lead consumers to expect that the sparkling water’s lemon taste is provided by an appreciable amount of lemon ingredients, according to the complaint. Federal and state regulations require manufacturers to disclose the source of a product’s characterizing flavor, be it real lemons or essences, oils or extractives obtained in a laboratory, the lawsuit says.
Per the case, although a disclaimer stating “Flavored Mineral Water” appears at the base of the bottle, the statement is “inconspicuous and in a color which blends into the yellow cellophane wrapper.” Even if a consumer notices the disclosure after seeing the other lemon-centric representations on the product’s label, they would not know that the sparkling water did not contain an appreciable amount of lemon ingredients, the complaint argues.
“Consumers will expect the Product’s lemon taste is provided by lemon ingredients and have an appreciable amount of lemon,” the suit claims. “An appreciable amount of lemon is an amount sufficient so that all the lemon taste comes from lemons.”
The filing additionally argues that BlueTriton has been able to pass off the S. Pellegrino Essenza sparkling water as a higher-quality product by wrapping it in yellow cellophane, which, per the suit, “tricks the consumer so that the contents of the Product appear yellow, as it would be if it had an appreciable amount of lemon ingredients.”
Reasonable consumers rely on companies to honestly identify and label the components, attributes and features of a product, and the value of the S. Pellegrino Essenza sparkling water was “materially less than its value as represented by defendant,” the lawsuit says.
“Given that the Product is sold under the esteemed San Pellegrino brand, and imported from Italy, Plaintiff had no reason to expect the Product lacked the relative amount and type of lemon ingredients,” the complaint reads.
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