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Annie’s Homegrown “Vanilla” Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches Class Action

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A number of class actions have been filed recently taking issue with the designation of certain ice creams as “vanilla.” The complaint for this class action claims that Annie’s Homegrown, Inc. sells mini ice cream sandwiches that should not be designated as containing “vanilla” ice cream.

The class for this action is consumers in all fifty states who bought any of the products with actionable representations. 

Vanilla is a popular but expensive flavor, always in high demand. The complaint alleges, “This demand could not be met by the natural sources of vanilla, leading manufacturers to devise methods to imitate vanilla’s flavor and appearance.”

The complaint makes the argument that the rules for the designation of ice cream flavors and other types of flavors are different: “In ice cream, ‘natural flavor’ refers only to a natural characterizing flavor.” Also: “‘Artificial flavor’ in ice cream includes (1) a flavor not derived from the characterizing flavor, even if obtained from natural sources and made through natural processes and (2) a flavor not derived from the characterizing flavor that is used to simulate the characterizing flavor.”

The complaint reviews the requirements for various types of ice cream products. 

  • If the ice cream contains no artificial flavor, the proper designation is [characterizing flavor] + [“ice cream”], for example, “vanilla ice cream.”
  • If the ice cream contains a natural characterizing flavor and an artificial flavor simulating it, and the natural flavor is predominant, the designation should be [characterizing flavor] + [“flavored”] + [“ice cream”], for example, “vanilla flavored ice cream.”
  • If the ice cream contains a natural characterizing flavor and an artificial flavor simulating it and the artificial flavor predominates, the designation should be [“artificial” or “artificially flavored”] + [characterizing flavor] + [“ice cream”], for example, “artificially flavored vanilla ice cream.”

The complaint then claims that the Annie’s products are misleading because they do not contain enough vanilla—that is, “they do not contain the amount, type and percentage of vanilla as a component of the flavoring in the product which is required and consistent with consumer expectations. Also, part of the label promises “No Flavors, Colors or Preservatives from Artificial Sources.” 

But the ingredient panels lists only “organic natural flavor,” which the complaint alleges mean that “(1) the flavoring … is not exclusively vanilla and (2) the product contains non-vanilla flavors obtained from natural sources other than vanilla beans…” It claims that “natural flavor” is not a synonym for vanilla.

The causes of action include negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranty, and fraud, among other things. 

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