There’s an ugly side to the mounting demand from consumers for more natural ingredients in the food they eat.
Chobani exposed the yogurt world to that ugly side with a recent ad campaign, and it fueled a dispute that ended in a courtroom.
A federal judge ruled late last week that Chobani would have to stop running ads and making claims on social media that its competitors’ ingredients were
harmful. The ruling came after General Mills and Dannon took issue with Chobani’s “Simply 100” campaign.
explained the content in its commercials:
In one Chobani commercial, a woman throws away a cup of Yoplait after discovering it contains potassium sorbate. "That stuff is used to kill bugs,'' a
Another Chobani commercial features a woman who picks up Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt while a voiceover says the product contains sucralose: "That
stuff has chlorine added to it!"
The Food and Drug Administration has listed those ingredients as safe for human consumption.
Chobani sued Dannon in U.S. District Court in Albany for trying to thwart its campaign. The federal judge ruled that Chobani has to remove the ads from the
Internet and cease making similar claims on social media.
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General Mills and Dannon responded with statements. Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for General Mills, said false advertising “harms consumers”:
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.
Michael Neuwirth, a Dannon spokesman, called the ruling a “victory”:
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 … 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.
Chobani is free to continue hyping its own natural ingredients without disparaging that of its competitors. The company issued this statement in the wake
of the loss:
This is not a marketing campaign, it's a mindset campaign, and it outlines the difference between using only natural ingredients versus artificial
ingredients. While we're disappointed by the preliminary ruling, [and] 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.
After winning the injunction, Dannon will reportedly seek damages from Chobani.