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Annie’s Homegrown Cereal Excessive Slack Fill Class Action

Box of Annie's Cocoa Bunnies Cereal

The complaint for this class action quotes a study saying that “[t]he average consumer spends a mere 13 seconds making an in-store purchasing decision…” The issue? The complaint alleges that Annie’s Homegrown brand cereal products come in opaque containers which hide the fact that they are approximately 50% empty.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all US citizens who made retail purchases of Annie’s cereal products during the applicable limitations period up to the final judgment in this action. The California Subclass is all residents of California who made retail purchases of Annie’s cereal products during the applicable limitations period up to the final judgment in this action.

General Mills, Inc. is the owner of Annie’s Homegrown brand, which makes the products at issue: 

  • Annie’s Cocoa Bunnies
  • Annie’s Cinnabunnies
  • Annie’s Berry Bunnies
  • Annie’s Frosted Oat Flakes

The complaint also quotes a Consumer Reports article: “Most of our studies show that 75 to 80 percent of consumers don’t even bother to look at any label information no less the net weight … Faced with a large box and a smaller box, both with the same amount of product inside … consumers are apt to choose the larger box because they think it’s a better value.”

Because of this, state and federal laws outlaw excessive nonfunctional slack fill, which is the empty space in containers that doesn’t serve a purpose.

California has a Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (CFPLA) to protect consumers against deceptive misrepresentations in packaging. It says, “Packages and their labels should enable consumers to obtain accurate information as to the quantity of contents and should facilitate comparisons.”

One of its provisions says, “A container that does not allow the consumer to fully view its contents shall be considered to be filled as to be misleading if it contains nonfunctional slack fill.”

Some slack fill is functional. The law cites six situation where empty space may be required in a package:

  • For protection of the contents.
  • To meet the requirements of machines enclosing the contents of the package.
  • When it’s cause by unavoidable settling during shipping and handling.
  • Where the packaging perform a specific function, such as when the packaging performs a role in the preparation of the food.
  • When the food is packed in a reusable container, where the container is part of the presentation of the food and has its own value, for example, when a gift is made containing food and a container that can be reused after the food is eaten.
  • When the fill level cannot be increased or the package size cannot be decreased, for example, when a packaging needs to provide required labeling or when it needs to accommodate a tamper-resistant device.

According to the complaint, the slack fill in the Annie’s boxes isn’t related to any of these conditions and is therefore nonfunctional.

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