A class action lawsuit has been filed against Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. by a consumer who claims the company’s Straight Up Tea, purporting to be “Sorta Sweet,” has a high sugar content.
Robbin Sommer of California says she purchased Straight Up Tea at a Safeway in June 2019. She claims she relied on the “Sorta Sweet” representation when she purchased the product and believed it would be low in sugar.
Sommer states she would not have purchased the tea if she had known it was actually high in sugar. She explains that she would buy the tea again in the future if the product was remedied to reflect Keurig Dr Pepper’s labeling and marketing claims.
“Keurig Dr Pepper falsely and misleadingly markets the Products to consumers as being ‘Sorta Sweet’ and low in sugar as those terms are generally understood,” Sommer says in the Straight Up Tea class action lawsuit.
The plaintiff also notes Keurig Dr Pepper charges a premium for the product on account of its false and misleading representations regarding low sugar content, including “Sorta Sweet.”
At least in part due to the growing consumer awareness of health problems caused by excessive sugar consumption, in recent years, consumers have shown a distinct preference for products with little or no added sugar, Sommer says.
In addition, low-sugar products are generally marketed toward consumers seeking products useful in “weight control” through the consumption of fewer calories, Sommer says. She points to a scientific paper that states reasonable consumers “clearly link sugar to calories and therefore expect a reduction in sugar content to deliver a reduction in calorie content.”
The Straight Up Tea class action lawsuit also points out that because “low sugar” and “low added sugar” claims have never been authorized, they are prohibited. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to companies making “low sugar” claims, the plaintiff notes.
Sommer maintains that the term “sorta” is a synonym for “low,” which is why “Sorta Sweet” gives consumers the impression that the tea is low in sugar.
In fact, sugar is the second most prominent ingredient in the tea by weight, greater even than the amount of tea, Sommer argues.
“Consumers will not expect a product represented as ‘Sorta Sweet’ to have 22 grams of added sugar, as indicated is present in the Product on the Product Nutrition Facts panel,” the Straight Up Tea legal news states.
Even though the nutrition facts tell consumers the 18.5 ounces of the tea provide 43% of the daily value of added sugar, they are not told whether this amount is low, medium or high, Sommer claims.
Contrary to the claims that the tea is low in sugar, the product is high in sugar and “pose[s] a specific risk of harm to consumers seeking to lower their sugar consumption, including those with diet-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes,” Sommer says.
Keurig Dr Pepper’s branding and packaging of the tea is designed to, and does, deceive, mislead and defraud consumers, Sommer states. She says that when she purchased the product, she sought a product that was low in sugar, as represented by the front label of the tea.
The Straight Up Tea class action lawsuit claims she read and relied on the defendant’s false and misleading product name (i.e. “Sorta Sweet”), statements and claims in its labeling and advertising of the products. She also says she relied on the statements of the tea packaging, which emphasize the product is “Sorta Sweet” even though the tea is high in sugar.
“Defendant has sold more of the Products, at higher prices per unit, than it would have in the absence of this misconduct, resulting in additional profits at the expense of consumers,” the plaintiff maintains.
Sommer also alleges that the value of the product that she purchased and consumed was materially less than the value as represented by Keurig Dr Pepper. She says she lost money as a result of the defendant’s deception in that she did not receive what she paid for.
Common questions of law and fact in the Keurig Dr Pepper class action lawsuit include: whether Keurig Dr Pepper contributed to, committed or is responsible for the conduct alleged; whether Keurig Dr Pepper acted willfully, recklessly and negligently in committing the violations of law alleged; and whether the putative Class Members are entitled to injunctive relief.
Prospective Class Members include “all persons who have purchased the ‘Sorta Sweet’ Straight Up Tea beverage for their own use, and not for resale, in California, at any time from June 25, 2016, to time of trial.”
Did you purchase Keurig Dr Pepper’s Sorta Sweet Straight Up Tea thinking it was low in sugar? Leave a comment below.
The plaintiff is represented by Michael R. Reese and George V. Granade of Reese LLP and Spencer Sheehan of Sheehan & Associates.
The Straight Up Tea “Sorta Sweet” Class Action Lawsuit is Robbin Sommer v. Keurig Dr Pepper, Case No. 4:20-cv-04181, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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