Yogurt wars: Judge rules against Chobani ad campaign
A federal judge is barring Chobani from continuing its advertising campaign that criticizes its rivals yogurt, condemning General Mills and Dannon’s use of ingredients.
Last week David Hurd, a judge for the US District Court of Northern New York, handed down preliminary injunctions against the Greek yogurt manufacturer stating General Mills and Dannon could be “irreparably harmed” by the Chobani ads which would have a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its false advertising claim,” according to Minnesota newspaper the Star Tribune.
Though disappointed, Chobani says it will respect the court’s preliminary decision. Per the ruling, Chobani is free to continue to advertise the value of selecting natural ingredients.
“This is not a marketing campaign, it’s a mindset campaign, and it outlines the difference between using only natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients,” says Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani. “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.”
Chobani filed legal action against Dannon in January, seeking a declaration from the court that the advertising for its Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt products is not false, misleading, disparaging or deceptive and that claims its yogurt contains less sugar than regular yogurt are not false or misleading.
Chobani launched its Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt campaign on Jan. 6, touting its new line of yogurts that feature no artificial sweeteners and preservatives while highlighting some of these ingredients are used in Dannon and Yoplait yogurt.
After the launch of the campaign, counsel for Dannon sent a letter to Chobani and demanded it immediately discontinue it. In one ad, Chobani criticizes Dannon’s use of the artificial sweetener sucralose. However, Dannon contends sucralose is an FDA-approved ingredient that has been used safety for more than 15 years. In a different campaign ad, Chobani goes after General Mills’ Yoplait, saying the yogurt contains potassium sorbate, and the ingredient is “used to kill bugs.”
General Mills responded with a lawsuit of its own, stating the Chobani ad claims its Yoplait yogurt is toxic and should be discarded as garbage. General Mills says in the lawsuit that it is not aware of any evidence potassium sorbate—an FDA generally recognized as safe ingredient—is effective against insects.