This week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, filed a class action against PepsiCo, alleging that Pepsi misled consumers by marketing its popular Naked Juices as healthier than they really are. The complaint alleges product packaging and advertising for Naked Juices suggest or imply that the products are high quality, and contain expensive and nutritious ingredients, such as apples, berries and kale, while the main ingredient in the products are often cheaper, less nutritious apple juice. Additionally, CPSI alleges that certain Naked Juice drink labels claim that the “no sugar [is] added,” to the products when the drinks’ sugar content is arguably equivalent to (and sometimes, more than) a can of Pepsi. Accordingly, CPSI alleges reasonable consumers are deceived into buying the not-so-healthy drinks and seeks monetary and injunctive relief for U.S. consumers who bought Naked products since October 2010. Three years ago, PepsiCo’s Naked Juice paid a $9 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit after plaintiffs accused the company of falsely labeling some of its juices “all natural.” In the settlement, PepsiCo agreed to stop using the claim on labels, though it denied that the term was misleading or false in any way.
TAKEAWAY: Advertisers should be keenly aware of the growing number of cases involving health claims. This uptick in litigation should serve as a reminder that advertisers are responsible for all reasonable interpretations of the messages made, and that they must have substantiation in their files before the ads are disseminated.