What to Know
Wegmans supermarket was hit with a class action complaint after a pair of ice cream buyers accused the chain of misleading consumers
Plaintiffs allege chain misled consumers by marketing its ice cream as having vanilla, even though the ingredient is not listed on labels
Wegmans contends it has complied with all regulations and industry standards
Wegmans supermarket was hit with a class action complaint after a pair of ice cream buyers accused the chain of misleading consumers by marketing its ice cream as having vanilla, even though the ingredient is not listed on the products' labels.
In the complaint filed Friday in New York federal court, Quincy Steele, of Pennsylvania, and Jimmy Arriola, of the Bronx, said that instead of using vanilla flavoring or vanilla extract, Wegmans' ice creams use a non-vanilla "natural flavor" to achieve the vanilla taste while selling its products at premium prices, calling the alleged practice “misleading and deceptive.”
“The front label statements of “vanilla ice cream” are understood by consumers to identify a product where the characterizing flavor is vanilla and supplied to the Products only from the vanilla plant,” according to the complaint.
“The proportion of the characterizing component, vanilla, has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance of the products because it is more expensive and desired by consumers,” the complaint goes on to say.
To showcase their allegations, the plaintiffs include photos of Wegmans’ ice cream ingredient lists, which show no mention of the vanilla, but rather “natural flavor.” To drive the point across, the plaintiffs also include photos of the ingredients lists of various competing ice cream brands for comparison. The competing brands list vanilla extract in their ingredient list.
The consumers who have presented the complaint say the supermarket chain tried to deceive them into thinking the product is made using real vanilla in violation of federal regulations and that the chain should have stated that it was artificially flavored.
Steele and Arriola will represent their Pennsylvania and New York state sub-class but look to be joined by other sub-classes from the other states with store locations: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.
“Plaintiff and class members reasonably and justifiably relied on these negligent misrepresentations and omissions, which served to induce and did induce, the purchase of the Products,” the complaint says.
The plaintiffs accuse Wegmans of violating New York consumer protection laws, negligent representation, breach of warranty, fraud and unjust enrichment. Steele and Arriola seek monetary damages and for the supermarket chain to correct the alleged misleading labels.
Wegmans contends it has complied with all regulations and industry standards.
“We take great pride in the quality of all of our Wegmans Brand products,” a Wegmans’ spokesperson said in a statement to News 4. ”We believe that the labeling of our ice cream fully complies with all regulations and industry standards, and is not misleading in any way.”