Last week, the Western District of New York dismissed a proposed class action against Mondelez Global over its Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Rejecting the plaintiff's claims, the judge held that “shortbread” in the product’s name does not imply that its ingredients include butter.
What is a shortbread cookie? Well, according to the complaint, there are a few definitions: “a type of sweet cookie that contains a lot of butter,” “a kind of cookie made from flour, sugar, and butter,” or “a hard sweet cookie with a large amount of butter,” among several others. While the product’s packaging does not list butter as an ingredient, the plaintiff alleged that the packaging’s “shortbread” misrepresentation was misleading as she “believed and expected” that the shortbread cookies “contained ingredients expected of shortbread, like some amount of butter, instead of not having any butter.”
The Western District had other ideas, however. What should a reasonable consumer believe about a shortbread cookie product's butter content? The judge opined, “nothing in the word 'shortbread' itself would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that the cookie must contain butter.” Even if the plaintiff were correct that shortbread is commonly made with butter, the court said, she still failed to allege that the average consumer believes that shortbread cookies necessarily contain butter.
The court explained that the term "shortbread" allows consumers to “understand the flavor and texture of the cookies and differentiate among products.” But, absent any additional representations of how the flavor and texture are achieved, the use of the term “shortbread” is not misleading, the court determined.
Howze v. Mondeléz Global, No. 1:22-cv-00351 (WDNY, 2022).
“Nothing in the word 'shortbread' itself would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that the cookie must contain butter”