Greek yogurt giant Chobani is taking legal action against rival Dannon amid an ongoing spat over a Chobani ad campaign targeting the use of artificial sweeteners.
Chobani filed a complaint Monday in the U.S. District Court Northern District of New York. The company is seeking a court declaration affirming that its Simply 100 advertising campaign — launched Jan. 6 — "is not false, misleading, disparaging or deceptive."
The campaign singles out competitors' products, including Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, which Chobani claims contains the artificial sweetener sucralose processed with added chlorine.
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"Indeed, it is the presence of chlorine that prevents sucralose from being broken down in the body for energy, thus making sucralose intensely sweet and yet non-caloric," Chobani representatives allege in Monday's complaint.
According to Chobani, Dannon's legal team sent a letter Jan. 7 demanding an end to the ads, which Dannon claimed were "false, misleading, disparaging, or deceptive."
Chobani insists its assertions that its Greek yogurt "contains substantially less sugar than regular yogurt are not false or misleading" and are bolstered by data from the United States Food and Drug Administration.
"Consumers have the right to know what's in their cup. This campaign is fundamentally about choice — the choice between natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients," said Chobani's Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness said in a statement Monday. "We're empowering consumers with facts and information to help them make more informed decisions when they're buying food for themselves and their family. We know people are concerned about artificial sweeteners in their food, and this campaign is about giving them truthful and accurate information."
Dannon, however, says the Chobani ad campaign "misleads and deceives the public about the healthfulness and safety" of its Light & Fit yogurt, according to Michael J. Neuwirth, Dannon's senior director of public relations.
"Like many reduced-calorie foods, Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt contains sucralose, an FDA-approved ingredient that has been safely and widely used as a sweetener in foods for more than 15 years," Neuwirth said in an email to NBC. "The truth is, we carefully craft our recipes to make our products not only delicious, but nutritious too."
Neuwirth said Dannon plans to "pursue all available avenues to address Chobani's misleading and deceptive marketing."