Nutella settles class action lawsuit for $3.05 million
A little over a year ago, consumers brought a class action against Nutella. The consumers were stupid enough to believe that Nutella is actually a health food. I blogged about it at this link.
Nutella, for those who don’t know, is the yummy chocolate-hazelnut spread. It’s main ingredients are palm oil, sugar, hazelnuts and cocoa.
Lots of parents feed their kids Nutella sandwiches because their kids will eat it, and because a Nutella sandwich is easy to make.
Apparently, at some point, the maker of Nutella, Ferrero USA, started to market towards these families by touting Nutella as part of a nutritious breakfast. When consumers figured out that the chocolate hazelnut spread was made from sugar, chocolate and hazelnuts they flipped out and sued, claiming deceptive advertising. You can watch the allegedly deceptive commercial here.
The lawsuit pissed me off when I first heard about it. For one, how can anyone think that a chocolate spread is some type of magical health food?
Plus, there are lots of arguments that Nutella is not quite as junky as made out to be in the lawsuit. Arguably, Nutella on whole-grain bread is a lot healthier than eating ready-to-eat packaged cereal, and it certainly is better than allowing a kid to skip breakfast. Here is a great article in Slate explaining why equating Nutella to a candy bar isn’t fair at all.
But, no matter how stupid I think this lawsuit is, Nutella will pay out $3.05 million as part of the settlement. If you are a Nutella consumer you can possibly recover a whopping maximum amount of $20 (possibly less if too many consumers petition for recovery).
The most annoying thing about this lawsuit is that the company that makes Nutella doesn’t appear to be an evil company. The Christian Science Monitor reports,
The company issued its first social responsibility report two years before the first lawsuits were filed. This year it stopped advertising to audiences where more than half of the viewers or readers are under 12; next year, no more than 35 percent of the audience can be under 12. It has started a training program with USAID for hazelnut growers in the country of Georgia. Last year, one of its two managing directors (and a grandson of the founder) died during a humanitarian mission to South Africa. By 2020, the company aims to supply all its cocoa, palm oil, and coffee from sustainable farms.
I get going after companies for lying about the ingredients in their products, e.g. lying about toulene being in nail polish. And I understand suing companies for making bumptious claims, e.g., Rice Krispies will make your immune system better. But this is different. Or at least I think so. A company should be able to say how to eat their product with healthy food, and say that if you eat it this way it can be part of a healthy breakfast. And if dopey people infer that the product is somehow transformed into a health food, the onus should be on them.
Think about it. What if there was an ad with a sexy naked model with Nutella spread all over her and a caption stating, “Great Way to Start your Morning.” What if some consumers really believed that putting Nutella all over your partner’s body would be a great way to start your morning? But when they tried it, they figured out that it wasn’t such a great way to start their morning — it was actually really messy and got their partner mad, should they be able to sue?
Dunno. Maybe I’m in the minority on this lawsuit. I just don’t think that eating Nutella with a healthy breakfast is evil.
All I know is that right now I’m going to make myself some of Bob’s Red Mill steel-cut oatmeal with bananas and put some Nutella on it.