Yogurt Fight Gets Messy re: Advertising and Food Law
Yoplait and Dannon have accused competitor Chobani of using false and misleading statements about their products in Chobani’s latest ad campaign. In newspaper, television, and social media advertisements that began airing January 6, 2016, Chobani states that unlike its Simply 100 yogurt, Yoplait Greek 100 contains potassium sorbate as a preservative and Dannon Light & Fit Greek uses the artificial sweetener sucralose, which contains chlorine. Potassium sorbate is a common preservative, which Chobani’s ad campaign describes as “used to kill bugs.” Sucralose is an FDA-approved ingredient commonly used in reduced-calorie foods; chlorine is used to make sucralose extremely sweet without adding calories.
Chobani contends that the campaign “provides consumers with accurate information to help them make more informed decisions about their food choices, including the choice between natural [ingredients] and artificial [ingredients]”; Dannon argues the ads “falsely disparage the safety of harmless ingredients and unnecessarily alarm consumers as to the safety of the foods they each” and “[a]s a result, both Dannon and the public at large are harmed by [the] advertising.”
In recent years, consumers have become more sensitive to ingredients in the food they eat. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola removed brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade after a teenager started a petition to have the ingredient removed from soft drinks. Subway removed azodicarbonaide after Vani Hari, better known as the “Food Babe”, branded the ingredient “the yoga mat chemical.” Whether Chobani’s latest advertising campaign represents a new trend in companies calling attention to ingredients in their competitor’s products that consumers may wish to avoid – even if the ingredients have been safely and widely used in food for years – remains to be seen.