This Class Action Complaint (the “Complaint”) against Defendant The Coca-Cola Company (“Coca-Cola” or the “Defendant”) is brought by individual consumers residing in Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and New Jersey, and on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all others similarly situated.
From at least March 2006 through the present (also referred to as “the Class Period”), the leading producer and marketer of branded fruit juices, Coca-Cola, has falsely been claiming that its Minute Maid Pure Squeezed Orange Juice is “Never From Concentrate,” “Pure Squeezed,” orange juice, and “100% Pure Squeezed” orange juice and that its Minute Maid Premium Orange Juice is “100% Pure Squeezed” orange juice, “100% Orange Juice” and as containing “natural orange goodness.” In truth, Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid Premium and Minute Maid Pure Squeezed orange juices are heavily processed, designed and modified, and is not “100% Pure Squeezed” orange juice, “100% Orange Juice” or full of “natural orange goodness.”
As alleged, throughout the Class Period, Coca-Cola has systematically included the “100% Pure Squeezed”, “100% Orange Juice” and “natural orange goodness” nomenclature on the label of Minute Maid containers, on its Minute Maid website (www.minutemaid.com), and in print and television advertisements, such that any United States consumer who purchases Minute Maid is exposed to these representations. In addition, Coca-Cola markets and advertises Minute Maid as “Pure” and “100% Orange Juice” on the Minute Maid website (www.minutemaid.com) and in other advertising.
These claims are deceptive and misleading because Minute Maid is heavily processed and contains added chemically-engineered flavoring that is unnatural, scientifically produced, and designed in laboratories by chemists, food scientists, and flavorists.
Coca-Cola’s conduct harms consumers by inducing them to purchase and consume a product with added chemically-engineered flavoring on the false premise that Minute Maid is “100% Pure Squeezed” orange juice.
Mass marketed orange juice such as Minute Maid cannot be fresh squeezed as fresh squeezed orange juice is unstable and has a short shelf-life. Fresh squeezed orange juice has a shelf life of approximately ten days refrigerated and between three and six months when frozen. Industrial processing and storage improves shelf-life, but adversely affects the flavor and aroma of orange juice. Nonetheless, to extend shelf-life, Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid undergoes extensive processing which includes the addition of aromas and flavors. This processing changes the essential nature of Minute Maid. It is not “100% Pure Squeezed.” Rather, it is a product that is extensively processed and manipulated, and engineered in laboratories, and has a shelf-life of more than two months.
Coca-Cola deceptively promotes Minute Maid to take advantage of consumers’ preference for natural products. For example, Minute Maid is marketed as “pure” and “100% Orange Juice” even though it has been pasteurized, deaerated, stripped of its flavor and aroma, stored for long periods of time before it ever reaches consumers, and then flavored, before it is packaged directly into the carton. Some of the non-natural aspects of these processes include: a. the removal of naturally present air from the intercellular spaces of the juice through the deaeration process; b. the reduction and deactivation of naturally occurring enzymes and microbial activity through pasteurization; c. long term storage of deaerated and pasteurized juices for a year or longer; d. the addition of chemically engineered “flavor packs” to mimic the flavor that natural orange juice has, which because it is natural, requires no flavor pack; and e. the mixing of numerous types of oranges from Florida and Brazil that are then flavored to cover up the varietal and geographic differences.
8. Through Coca-Cola’s deception, consumers are left with the false belief that Minute Maid is akin to freshly-squeezed orange juice. Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid is not fresh orange juice and its taste is a result of added flavoring not “gentle” processing as Coca-Cola suggests in its marketing materials and advertisements. Due to their false belief of the purity and freshness of Minute Maid, consumers are willing to pay (and do pay) a premium price for Minute Maid.
Additionally, Coca-Cola’s ability to extract a premium for its Minute Maid would not be possible without the flavor enhancement provided by a cocktail of substances in the chemically-engineered flavoring added by Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola falsely claims that it does not add flavoring to Minute Maid in its advertisements. Coca-Cola uses blending and chemically engineered flavoring to maintain uniform quality of Minute Maid so that regardless of the season consumers purchase a uniform product with a uniform taste that would be impossible with a fresh-squeezed natural orange juice.
Plaintiffs seek relief in this action individually and as a class action on behalf of all purchasers in the United States of Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid Pure Squeezed and Minute Maid Premium Orange Juice labeled and marketed as being “100% Orange Juice,” “pure squeezed,” and “natural” (“Minute Maid Class”) for untrue and misleading advertising, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, and unjust enrichment under the statutory and common laws of the states in which Plaintiffs reside.