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Califia Farms “Vanilla” Almondmilk Designation Class Action

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Bottle of Califia Farms Almondmilk

Vanilla is a perennially popular flavor, both by itself and in combination with others. Unfortunately, it’s also the second most expensive flavoring in the world (after saffron). The complaint for this class action alleges that Califia Farms, LLC improperly labels some of its almondmilk products as vanilla.

The class for this action is all consumers in all fifty states who bought any of the products with actionable representations during the statutes of limitations. Subclasses have been proposed for each of the individual states.

The products at issue are Califia Farms Vanilla Almondmilk and its Unsweetened Vanilla Almondmilk. Both have an image of a vanilla flower on the front label. According to the complaint, this implies “that the vanilla (i) flavor is exclusively derived from the vanilla plant and (ii) [is] present in an amount sufficient to independently characterize the Products.” 

However, the complaint says that these are false impressions. The flavor is not derived only from vanilla, the complaint says, and/or the amount of vanilla contained in the product is not enough to simply characterize the product as “vanilla” without certain qualifications.

The complaint reproduces the ingredient list for the regular product. This does not list vanilla, but only “natural flavors.” “If the ‘natural flavor’ only consisted of vanilla,” the complaint says, “this more valuable ingredient would be listed…” The “natural flavor” listed instead “refers to a combination of flavors from real vanilla and non-vanilla natural sources, such as tree bark or lignan.”

 “Because the Products contain flavor not derived from the characterizing food ingredient of vanilla,” the complaint alleges, “their unqualified, prominent and conspicuous representation as ‘Vanilla’ and ‘Unsweetened Vanilla’ is false, deceptive and misleading.” It would be better if the flavor was presented as “Vanilla with Other Natural Flavors.”

It further says that, depending on the actual content, the proper characterization might be “Natural Vanilla Flavored Almondmilk” or “Vanilla Flavored Almondmilk.” However, it notes that no accurate and non-misleading designation can be decided upon without knowing the amount of vanilla, its proportion to other flavorings, and the nature of the other flavorings. 

The amount or proportion of vanilla in the flavoring makes a difference to consumes, the complaint argues. Vanilla is both expensive and more desirable than many other flavors.

The complaint alleges violations of consumer protection laws in all states because of misleading advertising, labeling, representations, and omissions. In addition, it claims negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranty, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

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