NextFoods Inc. failed to get the claims dismissed that its GoodBelly Probiotic JuiceDrinks product labeling misleads consumers into believing the drink promotes healthy digestion and overall wellness, when the drink is in fact allegedly harmful to digestive and overall health.
GoodBelly Probiotic JuiceDrinks are a line of fruit juices that plaintiff originally claimed “expressly or implicitly convey the message that the JuiceDrinks are healthy.” Plaintiff relied on statements made on the packaging such as “Reboot your belly, then make GoodBelly your daily drink to keep your GoodHealth going. Because when your belly smiles the rest of you does too.” There, the juice-maker argued that the label was not deceptive and that some of the alleged deceptive statements were merely puffery. The court granted NextFoods’ motion to dismiss and dismissed the complaint without prejudice, after which the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.
In the amended complaint, the plaintiff specified that the product’s label is deceptive because it promotes digestive health, when it in fact harms digestive health. NextFoods argued that this amended complaint was still flawed – that there were no deceptive statements on the product’s label, and that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived by it. But, the court determined that the plaintiff did in fact plausibly allege that a reasonable consumer would understand from the product’s label (including the phrases “GoodBelly” and “GoodHealth,” along with the label's suggestion that the drinks will “reboot” the belly and make the belly “smile”) that the product claims to promote good digestive and overall health.
In arguing that the juice drink was harmful to digestive and overall health, the plaintiff made allegations supporting the claim that negative health consequences of juice consumption include harm to the intestinal barrier, as well as an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Such negative health outcomes, the order states, may be precisely what consumers seek to avoid by purchasing the juice drink at issue. Further, the fact that the juices’ sugar content was disclosed on the label does not mean that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived by the label, the court said.
The opinion explains that the product’s label is used for a reason – it is desirable for the brand to have consumers equate its product with good digestive and overall health, and marketing its products as healthy is a way to attract customers. While the label could be read as claiming that the probiotics improve digestive and overall health, the product itself goes beyond probiotics, the court states.
“Defendant is selling a juice beverage, and the label may be read by the reasonable consumer as promoting the health benefits of the beverage, not merely one ingredient in it.”
The court determined that the plaintiff plausibly alleged that the defendant juice-maker is selling a product that is bad for digestive and overall health, while attempting to induce consumers with promises of good digestive and overall health. NextFoods’ motion to dismiss was denied.
EVLYN ANDRADE-HEYMSFIELD, on behalf of herself, all others similarly situated, and the general public, Plaintiff, v. NEXTFOODS, INC., Defendant., 2023 WL 2576770 (S.D.Cal., 2023)