Earlier this week, a California district judge allowed claims to proceed against Del Monte Foods, Inc. for the use of the phrase “natural” on its “Mango Chunks and Peach Chunks” fruit cup products.

A Del Monte fruit cup consumer alleged that she relied on the phrase “fruit naturals” appearing on the product’s label – with a “bolded emphasis on ‘naturals’” – which she understood to mean the products “contained only natural ingredients.” She alleged that in reality, the fruit cups contained synthetic ingredients.

Del Monte argued that plaintiff’s claims should fail because she could not allege that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the products’ packaging. Del Monte also argued that there was clarifying language on packaging which could defeat a claim of deception. Specifically, the fruit cup-maker contended that the front label of the fruit cup products specifically disclaimed that the fruit is packed in light syrup, and that there was an ingredients label disclosing the artificial ingredients.

The court noted that the relative placement of the words “fruit naturals” with the phrase “in extra light syrup” could, in fact, lead a reasonable consumer to interpret the “syrup” as being free of synthetic ingredients. Under these circumstances, the court said, ingredient list’s inclusion of synthetic ingredients would not support dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claims were not subject to dismissal.

This lawsuit joins the many other false advertising suits involving “natural” claims, which we’ve seen in the context of snack bars, pina colada flavored drinks, and a fruit punch water enhancer product, to name a few.

 Bryan v. Del Monte Foods, Inc., 23-cv-00865-MMC (N.D. Cal. Jul. 25, 2023)