Defendant Pepperidge Farm, Incorporated, a Connecticut corporation, has been accused of deceiving consumers who purchased its “Golden Butter” crackers. The snack contains butter, but also “highly processed artificial substitutes for butter,” disclosed only in the label’s fine print, the complaint claims. The plaintiff, a Bronx, New York, resident, argues that she paid more for Pepperidge’s self-described “distinctively delicious crackers,” than they are worth as a result of the product’s misleading packaging.
The false advertising complaint, filed on Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, states that Pepperidge “manufactures, distributes, markets, labels and sells crackers purported to be made only with butter as a shortening ingredient under its Pepperidge Farm brand.” The Golden Butter crackers are reportedly sold to consumers in brick-and-mortar stores and through online outlets. The 9.75 oz box of crackers identifies the content as “Golden Butter – Crackers [lower left corner]” and “distinctively delicious crackers,” the complaint explains and depicts through an accompanying photo of the packaging’s frontside.
According to the complaint, when “food is labeled ‘Butter ____________’ or uses the word ‘butter’ in conjunction with its name, reasonable consumers will expect all of its shortening ingredient[s] to be butter.” Yet, the plaintiff alleges, the product does not just contain butter, it also contains vegetable oils, as stated in the “small print” ingredient list. In turn, the packaging, the plaintiff contends, “is designed to – and does – deceive, mislead, and defraud plaintiff and consumers.”
As a result of the misleading labeling, the crackers are sold at a “premium price, approximately no less than $2.64 for 9.75 OZ, excluding tax, compared to other similar products represented in a non-misleading way, and higher than the price of the Product if it were represented in a non-misleading way.”
The plaintiff seeks to certify a class of all Golden Butter cracker purchasers “who reside in New York during the applicable statutes of limitations.” She alleges that the defendant’s mislabeling violates a New York consumer protection statute, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, constitutes negligent misrepresentation and fraud, and has unjustly enriched Pepperidge. The complaint seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, monetary damages and interest as stated in common law and other statutory claims, and her litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.