Welch's found guilty of misleading consumers

Shaun Weston20 Sep 2010

A federal court jury in Los Angeles has found that juice maker Welch's intentionally misled consumers with false and deceptive labelling on its '100% Juice White Grape Pomegranate' product.

In reality, each 64oz bottle contains over 63oz of inexpensive apple and white grape filler juices, plus additional colour and flavour enhancers. Less than a single ounce per bottle is actually pomegranate juice.

The verdict is the culmination of a nearly two-week trial during which Pom Wonderful argued that Welch's misleading labelling was a violation of the Lanham Act, which allows businesses to seek relief from competitors who are engaging in false advertising.

"We view [the] verdict as a clear win for consumers who are constantly bombarded by deceptively labelled products marketed by big juice companies," said Pom Wonderful president Matt Tupper. "Based on their cleverly designed labels, these products appear to contain large quantities of exotic and healthy juices when in fact nearly all of the ingredients are cheap filler juices. The primary objective of our lawsuit against Welch's was to raise awareness of this widespread practice in the juice industry, and we're happy to have achieved this important goal."

During the trial, Pom successfully demonstrated that the product's labelling, which features large, prominently placed images of pomegranates on the front label, was intentionally designed to trick consumers into believing the product contained a substantial quantity of pomegranate juice.

Cheated

Throughout the trial, several witnesses testified that they had bought the Welch's product believing it contained large amounts of pomegranate juice. All of these witnesses were seeking the widely documented health-giving properties of pomegranate juice. When they learned that the product contained less than one ounce of pomegranate juice in a 64oz bottle, they were surprised and felt cheated.

During the initial phase of trial, in which the judge didn't permit testimony from Pom's damages expert, the jury didn't find that Pom sustained injury due to the deceptively labelled Welch's product.

"We regret that Welch's wasn't penalised financially at this point in the proceedings, but we'll continue to pursue all avenues of relief," said Tupper. "There needs to be severe consequences for Welch's actions, and we believe that had we been able to demonstrate the extent to which Pom's business has been harmed, the jury would have ruled in favour of damages."

Tupper said his company will continue to market Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice as exactly what it says on the label: 100% pure pomegranate juice.

"Pom has always been an advocate of honest labelling, and we hope the evidence in this trial sends a clear message to packaged food manufacturers that it's time to be fully transparent with consumers about what their products truly contain," added Tupper.

Source: Pom Wonderful