Should a reasonable consumer believe that a “natural flavor”-labeled fruit punch water enhancer is free from artificial flavors? Not necessarily, according to an Illinois federal judge. Last week, the judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against Target alleging the brand’s “fruit punch” flavored liquid water enhancer misled consumers into believing the product contained only natural fruit flavoring.

The Market Pantry “Fruit Punch” product’s front label says, “natural flavor with other natural flavors,” which the plaintiff argued led her to believe that the fruit punch taste was derived only from natural flavors. The plaintiff alleged that the product contained artificial flavoring as well.      

The court held that the label’s statement, “natural flavor with other natural flavors,” does not affirmatively represent that the product is free from artificial flavors.  The court explained, “A reasonable consumer would not believe that a shelf-stable, bright red fruit punch flavored liquid water enhancer was free of artificial ingredients absent an affirmative statement to the contrary.” 

This case is yet another example of consumers alleging that a product’s “natural” claims are deceptive (see snack bars, potato chips, and even dog food, to name a few), which highlights the continuing risks associated with making "natural" claims.  

Gouwens v. Target, case number 3:22-cv-50016 (N.D. Ill.  2022).