A proposed class action was filed against Clif Bar & Co. in April 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The complaint alleges violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, among numerous other causes of action. According to the complaint, the proposed class alleges that Clif Bar “employs a strategic marketing campaign intended to appeal to consumers interested in healthful foods in order to increase sales and profits, despite that the high-sugar bars are detrimental to health.” The complaint alleges that because Clif Bar markets its products as healthy, consumers are deceived into buying ZBars and “Classic” Clif Bars as healthy snacks, even though these bars actually derive as much as 37 percent of their calories from added sugar and are thus not especially healthy.
Just a Spoonful?
The complaint also goes into detail about the health risks of and public concerns surrounding the consumption of excessive sugar in snacks and the potentially severe consequences from ingesting too much sugar over time. Based on these concerns, the complaint alleges that Clif Bar deceptively omits, intentionally distracts from and otherwise downplays its bars’ high added sugar content, thereby misleading consumers into purchasing the bars. An example from the complaint is Clif Bar’s alleged representation that many of its high-sugar bars contain “no high fructose corn syrup,” which the plaintiffs allege confuses consumers and obscures the dangers of the bars’ added sugar.
The complaint requests a jury trial and is seeking compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and any other relief the court deems necessary from Clif Bar.
This proposed consumer class action follows a growing trend of consumer watchdogs and the class action bar paying attention to the marketing from large brands and alleging potential deception, especially regarding healthy foods claims. Brands need to keep in mind that express and implied claims centered on nutrition or well-being arising out of the net impression consumers take away from packaging and marketing must be soundly substantiated.