Starbucks Frappuccino Is Latest Target of Deceptive Vanilla Labeling Lawsuit
On February 5, Starbucks became the most recent food producer to be sued for deceptive and misleading labeling on its vanilla Frappuccino. Glen Skalubinski filed a proposed class action against Starbucks claiming the company misled customers into believing its Frappuccino drink contained real vanilla as an ingredient, when it contained only natural vanilla flavoring. Skalubinski argued that by failing to disclose that vanilla was not an ingredient, Starbucks violated federal and state food labeling laws and regulations.
Specifically, Skalubinski points to the Frappuccino’s front label. According to the complaint, “[t]he Product’s front label prominently and conspicuously displays the words ‘vanilla With Other Natural Flavors.’ The prominent and conspicuous display of the word ‘Vanilla’ on the Product’s front label misleads reasonable consumer to believe that the Product contains vanilla as the Product’s characterizing ingredient that delivers the Product’s promised characterizing vanilla flavor.” The plaintiff further argues that the front label should have disclosed that it contained no real vanilla. Peter Wasylyk, attorney for Skalubinski, said that “consumers should be able to rely on accurate information on a food product’s labeling to inform them what ingredients a product contains. That information should be on the front label.”
The complaint points to a few competitor products that plaintiff argues is correctly labeled. The coffee product labels declare “VANILLA FLAVORED WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS” on its front label and the words “NATURAL FLAVORS” on its ingredient list. Essentially, Skalubinski is arguing that he and other consumers were misled by the missing word “flavored” on the front label, despite the fact that the front label declares that the product is naturally flavored and “vanilla” is not listed as an ingredient in the ingredient list, but does declare “natural flavors.”
Skalubinski’s lawsuit is one of many vanilla-related labeling lawsuits. For instance, as we previously reported, Topco Associates LLC, Westbrae Natural, Inc., Trader Joe’s Company, and McDonald’s have all been recently sued over vanilla labeling, however notably, most cases have either been dismissed or are pending a motion to dismiss ruling. You can access our past reporting on vanilla labeling lawsuits here.