Lindt & Sprüngli's US subsidiary Ghirardelli Chocolate is facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that five of its products purported to contain white chocolate mislead consumers by containing none.
Claimant Scott Miller recently alleged in a Californian district court that five Ghirardelli products that are labeled as ‘White’ or ‘White Chocolate Flavored’ contain no white chocolate, which violates a series of Californian laws and amounts to fraud and false advertising.
Ghirardelli sought to dismiss the case in a hearing on 6 December.
Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler ruled that Miller could only pursue his claims for one product only - Ghirardelli Chocolate’s Premium Baking Chips – Classic White - as this was the only product that he purchased.
Ghirardelli’s motion to dismiss the case entirely was rejected.
Miller can file an amended complaint within 21 days.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that products labeled ‘White Chocolate’ must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa butter and items called ‘White Chocolate Flavored’ are only allowed when the product has some natural derivative of cocoa butter or cacao fat.
The ingredients list for Ghirardelli’s ‘Classic White’ baking chips includes no white chocolate, cocoa or cocoa butter.
The baking chips are made with pure vanilla and whole milk powder, which is labeled.
Miller alleged that the 'Classic White' label led consumers to believe the product contained classic or premium white chocolate.
He said that ‘chocolate’ was regularly referred to on the packaging, which also used “romance language” allegedly inferring the presence of chocolate.
The label reads:
The luxuriously deep flavor and smooth texture of Ghirardelli Premium Baking Chocolate delivers the ultimate chocolate indulgence. We hand-select the world’s finest cocoa beans and roast them to perfection and then blend the purest ingredients to achieve our award-winning chocolate. For our Classic White Baking Chips, pure vanilla and whole milk powder combine to create rich, melt-in-your-mouth bliss. Experience the Ghirardelli difference:
• All Natural ingredients
• Luxuriously smooth and creamy
• Finest grind for smoothest texture and easiest melting."
Ghirardelli argued that reasonable consumers would not be misled and that the reference to 'grind' meant the texture and not the grinding of cacao beans.
The other products concerned were ‘White Chocolate Flavored Confectionary Coating Wafers’, Sweet Ground White Chocolate Flavor, ‘Premium Hot Beverage – White Mocha’, ‘Frappé Classico – Classic White’.