A Florida federal court has granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. misleadingly labels its pretzels and chips as “natural” despite containing “unnatural genetically-modified organisms (‘GMOs’) and, in many cases, other unnatural artificial and synthetic ingredients.” Barron v. Snyder’s- Lance, Inc., No. 13-62496 (S.D. Fla., order entered March 20, 2015). The court first found that the plaintiffs sufficiently pled economic harm because they paid a premium price based on the “natural” representation on the labels; requiring them to compare rival products on the dates and at the locations that the plaintiffs purchased Snyder’s-Lance products would be “both impractical and impracticable. Unsurprisingly, it is also unsupported by law,” the court said.
Summarizing precedent on the issue, the court then determined that the plaintiffs offered enough of a definition of “natural” to survive the pleadings stage. The plaintiffs’ allegation “that a reasonable consumer would be misled by Defendant’s Products’ ‘natural’ label is (1) plausible and (2) a question not ripe for resolution at this stage of the proceedings.” The court then dismissed without prejudice the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction for failing to allege that they intend to repurchase Snyder’s- Lance products and the plaintiffs’ class claims in several states because they lacked standing.
Similarly, another Florida federal court has denied much of a motion to dismiss filed by Snack Factory LLC in a putative class action alleging that the company mislabels its Pretzel Chips as “all natural” despite containing synthetic ingredients like maltodextrin, soybean oil and dextrose. Seidman v. Snack Factory, LLC, No. 14-62547 (S.D. Fla., order entered March 26, 2015). The court first dismissed Snack Factory’s arguments against class certification, noting that they were more appropriate for that later stage of the proceedings.
As in Snyder’s-Lance, the court found that the allegations of economic harm based on premium pricing were sufficient and that the plaintiff lacked standing for an injunction because he does not intend to purchase the product again. The plaintiff in Snack Factory also alleged breach of an express warranty under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the court refused to dismiss the claim. “Under Florida law, ‘[a]ny description of [a good] which is made as part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty that the goods shall conform to the description,’” the court said. Accordingly it found that the claim can continue because the “all natural” claim created an express warranty.