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Belmont, Sundae Shoppe “Vanilla” Ice Creams Class Action

Belmont Vanilla Light Ice Cream Package

This class action is one in a number of recent ones that take issue with ice creams labeled as being “vanilla” flavor, or containing “vanilla” ice cream. Vanilla is the second more expensive flavoring in the world (after saffron), and the complaints allege that companies are finding ways to get around labeling laws. In this case, the complaint alleges that Aldi, Inc. deceptively labels some of its vanilla ice creams in its Belmont and Sundae Shoppe lines.

The class for this action is all persons who bought any products with actionable representations during the statute of limitations. The complaint says that individual states will have their respective state subclasses. 

At issue in this case are at least the following: 

  • 1.0 quart of ice cream
  • 1.5 quart of ice cream
  • 4.0 quarts (gallon) of ice cream 
  • Belmont Vanilla Light Ice Cream
  • Sundae Shoppe Vanilla Light Ice Cream

Other products are included as well, for example, products in these lines that contain vanilla ice cream, such as cookie dough or caramel flavors.

The complaint alleges that Aldi deceptively labels certain products as “deriving the entirety of their flavor from vanilla” or “overstating the amount and/or percentage of vanilla” in the products.

Vanilla is the favorite flavor for 28% of consumers. Some estimates say that roughly two-thirds of all ice cream eating is either vanilla or vanilla with something else in it (such as caramel swirls or chocolate chips). However, real vanilla is expensive, so food companies are pressed to find substitutes.

The complaint says, “When an ice cream product contains a natural characterizing flavor (i.e., vanilla) and an artificial flavor simulating it, and if the natural flavor predominates, the product is correctly labeled with the [] common name of the characterizing flavor followed by ‘ice cream,’ i.e., vanilla flavored ice cream.” However, if “the artificial flavor predominates, or if only artificial flavor is used, the product is correctly and non-misleadingly named ‘artificially-flavored’ preceding the characterizing flavor and ‘ice cream.’”

Also, “Any flavor[] which does not derive from the characterizing flavor is considered an artificial flavor when it comes to ice cream.”

The complaint adds, “This distinction is established by law…”

According to the complaint, the ice creams at issue give the impression that vanilla is the sole flavor source. This is because of the name, “Vanilla Light Ice Cream,” the absence of any indication of the terms “flavored” or “artificially flavored” or the like, the inclusion of the words, “No Artificial Flavors,” and an image of a vanilla flower.

However, the ingredient panels do not list any real vanilla. The Sundae Shoppe and Belmont products include the words “natural flavor” and “annatto (color).” 

According to the complaint, if the ice cream contained real vanilla flavor, it would be identified as such and not as “natural flavors;” and annatto is used to imitate the yellowish color of real vanilla ice cream. It compares the Belmont ingredient label with the ingredient label for Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.

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