The representations found on packages of Stop & Shop’s Honey Graham Crackers are misleading in that the product contains less honey and whole grain graham flour than consumers expect, a proposed class action claims.
Filed in New York, the 17-page lawsuit argues that although Stop & Shop’s packaging for its Honey Graham Crackers conveys that honey is “the exclusive, primary and/or most significant sweetener” in the product, the crackers are, in truth, sweetened “primarily with sugar and contain only a miniscule [sic] amount of honey.”
According to the complaint, consumers have, in recent years, shown a “distinct preference” for products that have little to no added sugar, in part because of both a societal trend toward consuming healthier foods and the long-held consensus among doctors and nutritionists that a high-sugar diet can lead to myriad health problems. Honey, a naturally occurring substance that, unlike sugar, contains nutrients, has a lower glycemic index than its processed sweetener counterpart and fewer calories, and is generally perceived as a healthier choice among consumers, who may be more willing to pay a higher price for products sweetened with it, the lawsuit says.
A peek at Stop & Shop’s Honey Graham Crackers’ ingredients list, however, shows, in descending order of dominance, sugar over honey, the case states:
As the lawsuit tells it, given honey’s placement in the ingredients list, the defendant’s product can be estimated to contain “slightly above 2%” honey.
Further, the case argues the product’s name “gives reasonable consumers the impression that whole grain graham flour is the primary flour ingredient” in Stop & Shop’s Honey Graham Crackers. In truth, however, the product’s ingredients list reveals enriched flour, given its placement among the other ingredients, is the main flour, with graham flour indicated further down the pecking order, the suit says:
Per the suit, the actual amount of whole grain graham flour in the graham crackers is “no greater than five grams out of the 31 grams in a serving.”
“The Product’s name of ‘Graham Crackers’ gives consumers the impression it contains more whole grain flour than it does,” the lawsuit avers. “At least half of consumers expect that for every gram of whole grain per serving, there will be at least one gram of fiber.”
Compounding matters is that consumers expect a product made with or containing whole grains to be at least a good source of fiber, the suit continues. When a purportedly whole grain, and for that matter, honey-flavored, product is labeled misleadingly, consumers get the short end of the stick with regard to nutrition and bang for their buck, per the complaint:
“The branding and packaging of ‘Graham Crackers – Honey’ is not accurate or justifiable on the basis that honey is expected to substantively contribute to the Product’s nutritive value, in contrast to its presence in an amount more akin to a flavor.
Product names can be misleading when they suggest one or more, but not all, of the key ingredients, like honey and whole grain graham flour, yet fail to disclose other more predominant ingredients like refined flour and basic sugar.
Honey and whole grain graham flour are characterizing ingredients of the Product since they are touted on the front label.
The labeling creates an erroneous impression that honey and whole grain graham flour are present in amounts greater than is the case.”
The lawsuit alleges Stop & Shop has labeled its honey graham crackers in a way that’s “designed to—and does—deceive, mislead, and defraud consumers,” allowing the grocer to sell more of the product at higher prices per unit than it would have been able to otherwise.
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