Feta Maker’s ‘Greek’ Claim Crumbles On Inspection, Suit Says (Law360 Subscription Required)

  • A plaintiff’s success in one of the proliferating class action lawsuits over geographic origin hinges on whether the front label of the product at issue would lead a reasonable consumer to believe the product is made in a place other than where it is.  Explicit use of a country name in such case may doom the defendant.  In a lawsuit settled by Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. (“Godiva”), discussed here, for example, “Belgium 1926” was found to have created a plausible inference that the chocolates are of European origin.  In contrast, however, for a yoghurt made in New York with a front label containing the “Icelandic Provisions” brand name and the phrase “Traditional Icelandic Skyr” against a snow-covered backdrop, a court found references to “Icelandic” to be akin to “in the style of Iceland,” which signals that the product is not made in the place that is named.
  • On August 14, 2022, plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against Lactalis America Group Inc. in the United States District Court Western District of New York that alleges the labeling of Président brand feta cheese gives the false impression that the product is made in Greece, or at the very least in another European country.  Facts that allegedly create the inference of Greek or European origin are:
    • “Feta” rendered in ancient-Greek font;
    • A gold olive branch framing the brand name, Président; and
    • The slogan, “Europe’s Leading Cheese Expert” over the top of the brand name.

The complaint also notes that the statements “created by a family of artisan cheesemakers with over 80 years of French heritage” and “Dist. By Lactalis American Group, Inc.” appear in small print on the bottom of the package, and contend that the United States origin of the product can be discovered by visiting third-party websites noting the product is “Freshly Crafted in the USA” and “Made in the European tradition.”

  • Since the complaint only presents one side of the dispute, it is difficult to predict how this case will turn out.  Keller and Heckman will continue to monitor and report on this litigation.