Hershey sued for misrepresenting white chocolate in Reese’s cups

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

Technically, the wrapper calls the product 'White Reese's,' not combining the words 'white' and 'chocolate.' Pic: flickr/Neil Crosby
Technically, the wrapper calls the product 'White Reese's,' not combining the words 'white' and 'chocolate.' Pic: flickr/Neil Crosby

Related tags Hershey White chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups Lawsuit false advertising Food fraud Chocolate Class action Consumer attitudes Cocoa butter

Consumers filed a complaint in the Eastern District of New York last month alleging that the confectioner was knowingly deceiving consumers.

The suit alleges that Hershey has engaged in deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and unjust enrichment, as well as breach of express and implied warranty. The latter offense contends that the manufacturer failed to follow through on ‘promises’ made to the consumer.

Hershey said it does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the court filing, consumers are led to believe that White Reese’s are indeed a white chocolate version of the standard milk chocolate (or dark chocolate) peanut butter cups. But the ingredient deck omits cocoa butter – the key ingredient in real white chocolate – which the defendants claim as misleading.

“[Hershey] has taken affirmative steps for consumers to mistakenly believe the products contain white chocolate and has intentionally failed to correct the misimpressions,”​ the lawsuit reads.

“The absence of any modifying term before or after ‘white’ renders the products misleading because consumers are not able to differentiate between white chocolate and cheaper substitutes like compound or confectionary coating made from vegetable oils.”

The description is confusing, the suit alleges, because “the term ‘white’ is applied to a product traditionally associated with chocolate.”

Spencer and Sheehan, the Long Island, New York firm representing the plaintiffs, specializes in class action lawsuits, including false advertising and food fraud. The firm declined to comment on the case.

Technically just ‘white’

Hershey pointed ConfectioneryNews to the product's formal title – Reese's White Peanut Butter Cups – and its webpage, which describes the product as ‘white crème.

They are made with peanuts, sugar, nonfat milk, dextrose, corn syrup solids – and vegetable oil, consisting of a mix of palm, palm kernel, shea, sunflower and safflower oils.

In addition to the classic Reese’s cups, the white version comes in egg form for Easter and as unwrapped minis.  

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with comments from the confectioner and the law firm.

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