A U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to Snapple in a suit alleging that the company misled consumers by labeling beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup as “All Natural.”
The court ruled that the plaintiffs failed to present reliable evidence that they paid a premium for Snapple’s “All Natural” label, and therefore had not established that they suffered any injury. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Denise L. Cote denied class certification in the case, ruling that the named plaintiffs admitted that they had reasons other than the “All Natural” label for purchasing Snapple (such as taste) and that high fructose corn syrup was listed as an ingredient.
Dismissing the case, Judge Cote said the plaintiffs had provided “nothing but conjecture as to the prices they paid for Snapple and the prices of comparable beverages available for sale at the time of their Snapple purchases.” Deposition testimony by the plaintiffs resulted in vague recollections of the locations, dates and prices of their purchases of Snapple, such as one plaintiff’s estimate that he paid “somewhere south of $2” for a Snapple iced tea and “$1.50, maybe” for a comparable Lipton beverage.
While acknowledging that beverage prices in the retail market vary widely and are affected by the nature and location of the outlet in which they are sold, the availability of discounts and other factors, the court said the plaintiffs had failed to identify with sufficient specificity the price of Snapple or comparable beverages.
To read the decision in Weiner v. Snapple, click here.
Why it matters: Snapple has faced several suits over its “All Natural” label claims, with a number of cases currently stayed pending a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration as to whether high fructose corn syrup qualifies as a natural ingredient. The FDA has not defined “natural” and has a policy of qualifying individual ingredients as “natural” on a case-by-case basis. In 2009, Snapple began the process of substituting sugar for high fructose corn syrup in all of its products labeled “All Natural.”