A new proposed class action was recently filed in the Eastern District of New York against the maker of I Heart Keenwah "Quinoa Puffs." The complaint alleges that the defendant, I Heart Foods Corp. is misleading consumers about the nature of its product, implying that quinoa is the main ingredient when it allegedly is not.
Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the "misleading representations include the Product name in large capitals on the front and back panel, the back panel text only discussing quinoa, the emphasis on the high protein content, implied to be the result of the quinoa and 'quinoa puff' being an ingredient." These representations create the "erroneous impression that quinoa (quinoa flour) is present in an amount greater than is the case, in terms of percentage and absolute amount." Such representations are material to consumers' purchasing decisions, claims plaintiff, because "the presence of quinoa has a material bearing on price and consumer acceptance of the product, evidenced by the Product’s brand name and marketing."
This new action joins the hundreds of food related class actions filed in recent years (see previous blog posts). Needless to say, food product labels, names and all marketing copy must be reviewed with care to ensure that it accurately and transparently describes the food product, its benefits and its ingredients. Consumers may be willing to pay a premium for the foods they enjoy, especially if they're organic/natural/sustainable/healthful, but such claims must be vetted with care.
"Quinoa appeals to first-world consumers who derive satisfaction from knowing quinoa can thrive in non-optimal conditions with a fraction of water required by other crops, helping reducing hunger and malnutrition. Secular societal trends towards more snacking and fewer meals causes consumers to seek products which feel like an indulgence yet also provide nutrients and protein in a way traditional snacking fare would not have."