Dannon and General Mills (owner of the Yoplait brand) succeeded today in their efforts to stop rival Chobani from making certain claims about their respective products.
In a bold ad campaign launched at the beginning of January, Chobani noted the presence of potassium sorbate in Yoplait and noted that the ingredient is used to kill bugs. Chobani noted that sucralose, used by Dannon in Light & Fit, contain chlorine. Both ingredients have GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status.
The two yogurt processors filed separate suits in the United States District Court, Northern District of New York, to stop Chobani from making those claims. U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd heard both cases.
In the suit brought by General Mills, Judge Hurd ordered Chobani to cease making the following claims in its marketing and advertising as they relate to General Mills’ products:
• General Mills products, including Yoplait Greek 100, are unsafe because they contain potassium sorbate;
• General Mills products, including Yoplait Greek 100, contain "stuff used to kill bugs";
• Potassium sorbate is unsafe for consumers;
• General Mills products, including Yoplait Greek 100, are unsafe or harmful;
• Use of the term "no bad stuff" as it relates to General Mills products, including Yoplait Greek 100
At General Mills, Mike Siemienas, Manager of Brand Media Relations, said “We are pleased by today’s court ruling requiring Chobani to stop their false ad campaign attacking Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt. General Mills supports fair and vigorous competition between companies, but false advertising only misleads and harms consumers.”
Dannon’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Chobani is granted
In Dannon’s suit, Judge Hurd granted Dannon's motion for a preliminary injunction. He wrote that Chobani must cease making the following claims:
• Dannon products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek, contain chlorine and Chobani products, including Chobani Simply 100 Greek, do not;
• Dannon products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek, are unhealthy because they contain chlorine and Chobani products, including Chobani Simply 100 Greek, are healthy because they do not contain chlorine;
• Dannon products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek, contain pool chlorine, a dangerous chemical used to clean swimming pools;
• Sucralose is bad or unsafe for consumers;
• Dannon products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek, are unsafe, harmful, and/or unhealthy;
• Use of the term "no bad stuff" as it relates to Dannon products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek
Regarding its suit, Dannon issued the following statement: "We are pleased with the court’s decision granting a preliminary injunction to stop this misleading advertising which is causing fear about safe ingredients, and we look forward to full and final resolution of this matter. Dannon considers this first step a victory for consumers who love Light & Fit.
“Contrary to what Chobani has said, its Simply 100 ad campaign is not about providing consumers with choice. We have always used only safe ingredients to make a wide variety of yogurts that are enjoyed every day by millions of people.
“Since 1942, we have worked hard to build a trustworthy Dannon brand based on quality products. We take all attacks on the reputation of our Light & Fit products as well as our brand seriously, and will work to ensure our competitors are truthful and not misleading in their advertising.
We will not stop focusing on what we’re really passionate about – making the widest variety of yogurts to satisfy a diverse range of preferences and tastes, so that Americans can enjoy one yogurt every day."
Chobani defends its information campaign for natural ingredients
Chobani put a positive spin on the outcome in a press released headlined “Chobani Continues to Fight the Good Fight.” The Norwich, N.Y.-based dairy processor said it “will respect the Court's preliminary decision as it continues its campaign to provide consumers with more information about natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients. As part of the ruling, the Judge said Chobani is free to continue to spread its message about the value of selecting natural ingredients.”
Chobani Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness said in a statement, "While we're disappointed by the preliminary ruling, we're committed to continuing the conversation and it's good to see big food companies like General Mills starting to remove artificial ingredients from some of their products, like their cereals. In the end, if we can give more people more information while helping other food companies make better food, everyone wins."
The yogurt maker isn't giving up on its "no bad stuff" theme, however. It pushed out a new ad on Twitter today, using the hashtag #nobadstuff.