Vanilla Flavoring Class Action Lawsuit Against McDonald’s Dismissed
On March 24, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a consumer class action lawsuit against McDonald’s which had alleged various causes of action relating to McDonald’s sale of vanilla ice cream that the plaintiff alleged derived some portion of its vanilla flavor from vanillin rather than vanilla bean.
The Court found that the Plaintiffs had not established that their claim—that consumers were misled by the vanilla flavor labeling—was plausible as required to survive a motion to dismiss. Specifically, the court found that the allegations of consumer deception were merely conclusory and did not establish that it was “probable that a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled.” The court noted the labeling regulations that govern the retail sale of vanilla ice cream added no support for Plaintiffs’ claims because they indisputably did not apply to sales at fast-food establishments. Additionally, and serving as an independent grounds for dismissal, the court found that Plaintiffs’ had not established that they had paid a premium for the vanilla ice cream; rather the court found it to be “counter-intuitive” in the market context presented.
We have reported on a variety of vanilla flavoring class action lawsuits, many of which have not survived the motion to dismiss stage. This case is another demonstration of the difficulty that plaintiffs have had in convincing the court that consumers expect vanilla flavored products to contain not only the flavor of vanilla but also the ingredient vanilla bean. An amended complaint may be filed within 30 days of the order.