A federal appeals court in New York has upheld the dismissal of a claim that Florida’s Natural Growers’ (FNG) use of the word “Natural” in its brand name was deceptive. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit made the ruling on May 29.
The appeals court held that the company’s use of the word “Natural” in its brand name was not deceptive, notwithstanding the presence of trace amounts of an artificial herbicide in the company’s orange juice products. The court concluded that a reasonable consumer would not be misled by the “Natural” brand name because the term appeared nowhere else on the product packaging, nor did the brand name connote that the orange juice was “pure” or “100% natural.”
Plaintiff Alexandra Axon had filed suit on behalf of a class of consumers who purchased orange juice products from FNG, asserting claims under New York’s consumer protection statutes, as well as claims for breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment. Axon claimed that use of the term “natural” in the FNG brand name was deceptive because its orange juice products contained trace amounts of glyphosate. The district court granted an FNG motion to dismiss the claim. Axon appealed that decision, and the appeals court held that the district court acted correctly.
The court also reasoned that additional representations on the packaging, such as “100% Orange Juice,” “Non-GMO,” and “Not From Concentrate,” provided sufficient context for the brand name such that it would not mislead a reasonable consumer. Moreover, the Second Circuit concluded that because the presence of glyphosate in the orange juice was merely an unintended byproduct of the production process, rather than an “intentionally-added ingredient,” a reasonable consumer “would not make assumptions regarding the presence or absence of trace amounts of glyphosate.” This distinguished the case from others in which the defendant added unnatural ingredients to its product or touted the products as “pure” or “100% natural” — terms that, unlike “natural,” indicate the absolute absence of contaminants.
FNG Chief Operating Officer Chris Groom stated that “Florida’s Natural is a natural product. Our juice is made from just one ingredient: Florida oranges, with no additives or preservatives. We are pleased with the affirmation from the Second Circuit Court and look forward to continuing to provide delicious, nutritious orange juice under the Florida’s Natural name.”
Learn more about the Second Circuit ruling here.
Sources: JD Supra and Florida’s Natural Growers
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