New York, NY: Unilever United States Inc. and PepsiCo. Inc. are facing a putative class action alleging consumer fraud and false advertising regarding their jointly produced Pure Leaf iced tea products. Specifically, the lawsuit claims the teas are falsely branded as "All Natural"and free from preservatives when in fact they contain a non-naturally produced citric acid as a preservative.
Named plaintiff Momo Ren alleges that the defendants engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign that claimed the teas are "nothing but all natural, freshly brewed tea from tea leaves,"which was designed to attract consumers seeking those types of products.
According to the lawsuit, citric acid is no longer made from fruit but rather manufactured through citric acid bacteria fermentation. It is classified by the USDA as a "synthetic allowed"substance. Therefore, PepsiCo. and Unilever, through a partnership with Unilever-owned Lipton Tea conspired to produce Pure Leaf, the advertising for which is in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws against misbranding.
"By marketing the products as being 'All Natural' and free of preservatives, defendants wrongfully capitalized on and reaped enormous profits from consumers' strong preference for food products made entirely of natural ingredients and free of preservatives,"the suit states.
The plaintiff has filed claims of deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The plaintiff is represented by C.K. Lee of Lee Litigation Group. The case is Momo Ren and John Does 1-100 v. Unilever United States Inc., PepsiCo Inc., and the Pepsi Lipton Tea Partnership, case number 156463/2015, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.