Chobani, Inc. manufactures, distributes, markets and sells several flavors of yogurt under its Chobani® Greek Yogurt and Chobani® Greek Yogurt Champions brands.
As alleged in the complaint, on the front of the yogurt packaging are the words “Only Natural Ingredients” or “All Natural,” followed by the product name “Chobani Greek Yogurt” or “Chobani Greek Yogurt Champions” and the two primary ingredients: non-fat or low-fat yogurt and fruit. The complete list of ingredients included on the back of the container seemingly confirm the nutritious nature of the products – milk, active yogurt cultures, fruit, vegetable and evaporative cane juices, pectin, natural flavors and locust bean gum. No (or low) fat. No (or low) cholesterol. And, no added sugars. In truth, however, depending on the flavor, the Products contain one to three teaspoons per six ounce serving of dried cane syrup, which is a highly refined added sweetener devoid of nutritional value. However, sugar is not listed among the Products’ list of ingredients, nor is dried cane syrup. Instead, Chobani refers to the dried cane syrup as “evaporated cane juice” (“ECJ”) – a term that the FDA has declared “false and misleading” because it fails to reveal that ECJ is a sugar or syrup and not a “juice.” It also misleadingly suggests that the sugar cane juice has been “evaporated,” leaving the sugar crystals with their nutrients still intact. But, unlike natural sugar cane, which is brimming with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibers and phytonutrients, ECJ is not healthy and nourishing. During refinement, the sugar cane juice is pressed from the sugar cane and boiled at high temperatures – destroying the enzymes and most of the nutrients – the molasses is removed, and the end result is little different from white sugar, about 99% sucrose, which is pure empty calories.
The complaint further contends that what this means to the consumer is that the thirteen to twenty-one grams (depending on the yogurt flavor) of “sugars” listed on the back of the container nutrition panel are not derived wholly from the natural nutrient rich sugars in the Products’ two primary ingredients, milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose and glucose), but are predominantly added refined sugars. Stated differently, roughly one-third of the Products’ total calories come from sugars with no nutritional benefit. However, this material information is omitted from the Product package, Chobani’s website, its marketing materials and other advertisements. Instead, the Company’s website, which is identified on the Products’ packaging, falsely proclaims “we don’t add sugar to our yogurt.”
Use of the misleading term ECJ and the omission of information identifying ECJ as an added sugar or syrup are likely to deceive consumers seeking a yogurt product with no added sugars or syrup sweeteners. The likelihood of deception is enhanced when the ECJ misrepresentations and omissions are viewed in the context of the whole label, with its emphasis on “All Natural” or “Only Natural Ingredients” and the Company’s promise of “nothing but good”
CLASS: All consumers who purchased Chobani Greek Yogurt with evaporated cane juice and/or Chobani Greek Yogurt Champions with evaporated cane juice.