Maxwell House Buyers Shorted on Number of Cups of Coffee Yielded By Each Container, Class Action Claims
Sulzer v. The Kraft Heinz Company
Filed: July 31, 2020 ◆§ 2:20-cv-01154
A class action claims the labels on containers of Maxwell House ground coffee grossly overstate the number of cups that can be made based on serving instructions.
A proposed class action alleges the Kraft Heinz Company has “grossly exaggerated” the number of cups that can be made from certain containers of Maxwell House ground coffee.
Describing the defendant’s alleged conduct as “a classic and unlawful bait-and-switch scheme,” the 32-page complaint claims a consumer who follows the instructions on a container of Maxwell House ground coffee will come to find the package does not contain nearly enough coffee to make the number of servings represented on the product’s label.
Per the case, at least 38 varieties of Maxwell House ground coffee are falsely labeled with regard to the number of servings the contents of each container can yield. As a result of the Kraft Heinz Company’s false and misleading product labeling, unsuspecting consumers have spent more money for less than the advertised amount of coffee they believe they’re buying, the lawsuit says.
Though the defendant prominently represents on containers of Maxwell House ground coffee that each package can make up to a certain number of cups, e.g. “MAKES UP TO 90 6 FL OZ CUPS,” the brewing instructions listed on the back label evidence the defendant’s apparent deception, the complaint relays.
According to the lawsuit, the brewing instructions for each Maxwell House ground coffee product instructs consumers to use one tablespoon of ground coffee to make one serving/cup of coffee. A breakdown of the relevant numbers—i.e. the grams of coffee needed to make the promised number of cups per container and the amount of coffee inside each package—shows consumers are greatly shorted on the amount of Joe they believe they’re buying.
From the complaint:
“By way of example … Defendant represents on the 10.5 oz tin of the Maxwell House 100% Colombian product that it ‘MAKES UP TO 90 6 FL OZ CUPS.’
As set forth above, 1 tablespoon of ground coffee is needed to make 1 serving/cup. Therefore, 90 tablespoons of ground coffee are needed to make 90 servings/cups.
As set forth above, one tablespoon of Maxwell House’s ground coffee weighs approximately 5 grams. Therefore, 450 grams of ground coffee are needed to make the promised 90 servings [90 tablespoons x 5 grams].
However, the 10.5 oz tin has a net weight of 297 grams. Therefore, it contains only 66% of the amount of ground coffee required to make up to 90 cups of coffee [(297 / 450) x 100%]. This is equivalent to approximately 59 cups of coffee.”
To sum up, the lawsuit says, a 10.5 oz tin of Maxwell House ground coffee contains only enough product to make 59 cups, or 66 percent of the amount of ground coffee required to make the 90 cups promised on the product’s label. According to the complaint, the same calculations apply for every other Maxwell House ground coffee product, whose net weight and weight per tablespoon show it’s impossible to make “anywhere close” to the represented number of cups.
The suit alleges each Maxwell House ground coffee container yields anywhere from 66 percent to 74 percent of the promised number of servings.
“Each and every one of them contains substantially less ground coffee than is required to make the recommended number of ‘up to’ servings promised on the packaging,” the lawsuit says. “On average, these Products contain enough ground coffee to make only 70% of the number of servings promised on the packaging, thus revealing a systematic course of unlawful conduct by Defendant to deceive and shortchange consumers.”
In all, consumers have been harmed economically in that the number of cups of coffee that can be made from a Maxwell House container is a material factor in weighing the decision to buy the product. Consumers such as the plaintiff “did not know, and had no reason to know” the Kraft Heinz Company’s labeling vastly overshoots how much coffee can be made from one package of product, the suit relays.
“By analogy, if a consumer purchased a six-pack of soda, but only received four cans of soda, the consumer would only be receiving 66.67% of what she paid for,” according to the complaint. “The situation here is no different in terms of harm to the consumer.”
As the lawsuit tells it, it’s easier for the defendant to conceal its conduct given reasonable consumers “do not keep track of the number of cups of coffee they make over a period of time.”
The case echoes recent lawsuits centered on similar claims concerning the amount of servings yieldable from packages of Folgers and Kroger ground coffee.
The lawsuit looks to represent consumers across the United States, as well as subclasses of California residents, who bought any variety of Maxwell House ground coffee within the applicable statute of limitations period.
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