Odwalla & Coca Cola sued for false advertising

Defendant Odwalla is a leading consumer packaged food and beverage company that manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells branded beverages and food bars throughout the United States. Defendant Coke is the parent company of Odwalla which distributes and sells a number of brands of beverages including the Fanta line of beverages.

As alleged, Defendants know that many of their consumers wish to maintain a diet comprised of healthy foods that do not contain added sugar. Defendants recognize that consumers are willing to pay a premium for such healthy foods, and Defendants actively promote the health benefits of their products.

Defendants currently market many different flavors and varieties of energy bars and beverage products which list either “Evaporated Cane Juice” or “Organic Evaporated Cane Juice” as an ingredient. These products include: Odwalla White Chocolate Macadamia Chewy Nut Bar, Odwalla Chocolate Almond Coconut Chewy Nut Bar, Odwalla Apple Toffee Pistachio Chewy Nut Bar, Odwalla Strawberry Pomegranate Superfood Bar, Odwalla Strawberry Protein Monster Protein Shake drink, Odwalla Quencher Pomegranate Limeade drink, Odwalla Chocolate Protein Monster drink, Odwalla Vanilla AI’Mondo Super Protein drink, Odwalla Citrus C Monster drink, Odwalla Light Lemonade, Odwalla Light Limeade, and Fanta Zero Orange Soda. Each of these products has listed either “Evaporated Cane Juice” or “Organic Evaporated Cane Juice” on its label and each is listed on one or more of the Defendants’ websites as containing “Evaporated Cane Juice” or Organic Evaporated Cane Juice.” All of these products are misbranded.

Defendants also indicate that sugar and evaporated cane juice are two distinct sweeteners although in fact they are both the same, namely sucrose.

Although Defendants list “Evaporated Cane Juice” as an ingredient on the extensive number of products indicated above, and on other products as well, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has specifically warned companies not to use this term because it is 1) “false and misleading;” 2) in violation of a number of labeling regulations designed to ensure that manufacturers label their products with the common and usual names of the ingredients they use and accurately describe the ingredients they utilize; and 3) the ingredient in question is not a juice.

The FDA has also sent out a number of warning letters indicating that evaporated cane juice is a misleading term that misbrands a product.

In discussing “Evaporated Cane Juice” in their marketing materials, Defendants do not disclose the fact that “Evaporated Cane Juice” is, in its ordinary and commonly understood terms known as, “sugar,” and/or “dried cane syrup.”

If a manufacturer is going to make a claim on a food label, the label must meet certain legal requirements that help consumers make informed choices and ensure that they are not misled.

Defendants have made, and continue to make, false and deceptive claims by making unlawful “evaporated cane juice” claims on their Misbranded Food Products. Defendants have violated  labeling regulations mandated by federal and California law by listing sugar and/or sugar cane syrups as “Evaporated Cane Juice.”

According to the FDA, the term “evaporated cane juice” is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener, including dried cane syrup. Because both sugar and cane syrup have a standard of identity defined by regulation. The FDA provides that “cane syrup has a standard of identity defined by regulation in 21 CFR 168.130, the common or usual name for the solid or dried form of cane syrup is ‘dried cane syrup.'” Similarly, sugar or sucrose is defined by regulation in 21 C.F.R. §101.4(b)(20) and §184.1854, as the common or usual name for material obtained from the crystallization from sugar cane or sugar beet juice that has been extracted by pressing or diffusion, then clarified and evaporated.

According to the FDA, sweeteners derived from sugar cane syrup should not be listed in the ingredient declaration by names which suggest that the ingredients are juice, such as “evaporated cane juice.” The FDA considers such representations to be “false and misleading” because they fail to reveal the basic nature of the food and its characterizing properties (i.e., that the ingredients are sugars or syrups).