Aldi Freed From False-Ad Claims Over ‘Vanilla’ Almond Milk (subscription to Law360 required)

  • On September 21, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed with prejudice the first amended complaint in a consumer class action lawsuit against the Aldi grocery chain.  The named plaintiff alleged the word ‘vanilla’ in the product name of Friendly Farms, Organic, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk is misleading because the product’s vanilla flavor is not derived exclusively or predominantly from vanilla beans or vanilla extract.
  • Citing recent decisions in other vanilla flavoring class action lawsuits by the same counsel, the court found in favor of Aldi as follows:
    • The term ‘vanilla’ on vanilla-flavored products merely indicates flavor and not an ingredient source.
    • Design flaws render a 2020 survey commissioned by the plaintiff’s counsel practically useless, rather than proving as the plaintiff purports that 69.5% of 400 consumers believed the ‘vanilla’ representation on the label meant that the product’s flavor comes exclusively from vanilla bean.
    • Even if the plaintiff were correct about federal labeling regulations, there is no inference that the disputed labeling standards align with consumer perceptions.
    • Dictionary definitions of vanilla do not assist the plaintiff in demonstrating that consumers believe the vanilla flavor comes exclusively from ingredients derived from the vanilla plant.
  • We have reported on a variety of vanilla flavoring class action lawsuits, many of which have not survived the motion to dismiss stage.  We will continue to monitor any developments.