A California plaintiff has filed a class action complaint against Trader Joe's, alleging that its house-brand candy, Ts and Js Sour Gummies, contains an undisclosed artificial flavor. Thus, plaintiff alleges, Trader Joe's is in violation of California consumer protection law. Plaintiff seeks damages, attorneys' fees, an injunction and corrective advertising.
Although plaintiff does not allege that the packaging for the product claims that the product is "all natural" or that it does not contain artificial ingredients, plaintiff claims that the candy "is falsely advertised as if it were an all-natural food product containing only natural ingredients..." (emphasis added). The basis for the "as if" claim appears to be the fact that Trader Joe's purportedly "maintains a pervasive national marketing campaign guaranteeing that all its house-brand products are only naturally-flavored." Also, plaintiff alleges, California law requires Trader Joe's to affirmatively disclose on the packaging that the product contains artificial flavors, which it purportedly does not.
Like other class action complaints involving "natural" or similar claims, this one alleges that California consumers, like American consumers nationwide, "seek out natural food products and are willing to pay substantially more for such products compared to food products with artificial ingredients. Food products made exclusively with natural ingredients command a price premium compared to similar products that contain synthetic ingredients such as artificial flavors."
Even candy and (as readers of this blog know) doughnuts.
"While Defendants' decision to label the Product deceptively and in violation of California law may have some utility to Defendant in that it allows Defendant to sell the Product to consumers who otherwise would not purchase an artificially-flavored food product at the retail price or at all if it were labeled correctly, and to realize higher profit margins than if they formulated or labeled the Product lawfully, this utility is small and far outweighed by the gravity of the harm Defendants inflict upon California consumers."