Butter is once again popular, driven by the desire for natural foods and the idea that fats are not as bad for you as they once seemed. BEF Foods, Inc. advertises its Bob Evans mashed potatoes as being “Made with Real Milk & Butter” on the front of the packaging, but the complaint for this class action claims that butter is only a component of something the ingredient panel calls a “butter blend.”
The complaint defines the Nationwide Class as being all consumers in any state who bought any of the products at issue with actionable representations during the statutes of limitations. A similar New York Class has also been defined.
The refrigerated mashed potato products include the following, in various sizes:
The complaint traces the relationship of butter, a natural product, and margarine, which was developed as a low-cost alternative and steadily declining in popularity. It quotes Food Business News as saying, “Butter is back as a growing number of consumers turn their backs to foods perceived as artificial, such as vegetable oil-based margarine.”
The only ingredient in butter is cream, and sometimes salt. Consumers now prefer butter because, the complaint says, because it is perceived as pure, natural, and minimally processed.
According to the complaint, the Bob Evans brand capitalizes on this: It emphasizes butter through the statement on the packaging and the image of a pat of bright-yellow butter, and it uses the word “farm” repeatedly, in “farm-fresh goodness,” “Our Farm Salutes,” “Farm Fresh Ideas,” and the image of a farm.
The complaint says, “No reasonable consumer expects a product which emphasizes butter in these ways to also include vegetable oils.” It also claims that when consumers use vegetable oils, they’re generally using them separately and in different ways than they use butter, rather than mixing them in the same food. It also refers to a study which it claims found that “though margarine users are open to having butter, those who prefer butter are unlikely to use margarine.”
Also, the products are represented as “fresh,” although it’s never directly stated, the complaint says, through the use of phrases such as “farm-fresh goodness” and “Made with Fresh Potatoes.” It claims that fresh mashed potatoes have a shelf life of between seven to ten days, while the Bob Evans potatoes have a shelf life of three months, due to the use of preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium acid pyrophosphate.
According to the complaint, the company has violated New York’s General Business Law, breached warranties, and engaged in negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment.