Godiva to Settle Geographical Claim Dispute
Plaintiffs Steve Hesse and Adam Buxbaum are seeking preliminary approval for the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York in March of 2019 against Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. (“Godiva”). The plaintiffs alleged that the company falsely represented that its chocolate products were made in Belgium and imported into the United States. The proposed settlement includes a $20M payout to an estimated 18 million class members who purchased the Godiva chocolate products.
These and similar lawsuits challenge allegedly misleading geographic origin labeling and promotional claims on various food products. The lawsuits particularly focus on companies that use geographical phrases on product packaging, social media, and marketing campaigns that lead consumers to believe that the product was produced in a specific geographic location. The lawsuits allege that consumers rely on these labeling and promotional claims in making purchasing decisions. In particular, plaintiff consumers allege that they paid premium for products that are believed to be sourced from a specific country or region.
Class action lawsuits focused on products that utilize geographic origin claims about food products have been on the rise. Take for example this October 2021 Himalayan Salt case, where the plaintiff alleged that the Kirkland brand of Ground Himalayan Pink Salt misrepresented its source as from “the heart of the Himalayan Mountains.” These types of geographical claims are likely to continue to be a source of litigation because they are relatively easy to dispute.