A New Jersey man is suing Unilever, maker of Breyers ice cream, saying the company’s claims that its products were “all natural” were “false, misleading, inaccurate and deceptive.”
In a lawsuit filed July 16 in a state court, Yosh Jefferson alleges that because of the alleged deception, thousands of consumers were duped into buying Breyers ice cream and paid too much for what they were getting. The plaintiff seeks class-action status for the suit.
The lawsuit against Conopco Inc. — a division of multinational consumer-goods company Unilever — says the company’s use of the words “all natural” on its Breyers ice cream packaging and advertisements going back to 2008 or earlier was in violation of state laws that protect consumers against fraud, breach of contract and false advertising.
The 19-page complaint says Unilever uses cocoa processed with alkali in 23 Breyers “original” and “half-fat” flavors, and the suit says alkali contains the man-made ingredient potassium carbonate. Breyers identifies products with alkali-processed cocoa in its nutrition labels.
The complaint echoes similar complaints against Breyers and Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that were litigated in recent years in a federal court in California. In those cases, Unilever reached proposed settlements in 2012 with consumers in a federal court in California over the mislabeling of ice cream as “all natural.” Since then, Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s have changed their labels so they no longer say “all natural.”
Unilever, which declined to comment, replaced the “all natural” tag on packaging with the words “quality since 1866.”
The plaintiff listed 14 “original” flavors and nine “half-fat” flavors, ranging from mint chocolate chip to rocky road to dark chocolate velvet, that have alkalized cocoa in them, and that were allegedly labeled as “all natural.”
“This misrepresentation cultivated the image that Breyers ice creams were more wholesome and less artificial than those ice cream products that were not natural,” the complaint says.
Jefferson said in court papers that he paid 38 percent more for Breyers ice cream than he would have paid for similar products not advertised as all natural.
The plaintiff, who seeks compensatory and statutory damages along with attorneys’ fees and other relief, did not respond to a request for comment, and his Newark, N.J., lawyer, Bruce Greenberg, declined to comment.