Starbucks has been ordered by U.S. District Judge John Cronan to face a lawsuit regarding their Refresher fruit beverages. The lawsuit alleges that several of these beverages lacked the key ingredient of fruit. Cronan rejected Starbucks' request to dismiss nine out of the eleven claims in the proposed class action. He stated that a significant portion of reasonable consumers would expect the drinks to contain the fruit mentioned in their names.
Consumers complained that beverages such as Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai, and Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refreshers did not contain the advertised mango, passion fruit, or açai. The plaintiffs, Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister, claimed that the misleading names caused them to be overcharged and violated their states' consumer protection laws. They argued that the main ingredients of the beverages were water, grape juice concentrate, and sugar.
Starbucks defended itself by stating that the product names described the flavors of the drinks, not their ingredients. They also argued that their menu boards accurately advertised these flavors. Starbucks believed that no reasonable consumers would have been confused, and that their baristas could have clarified any confusion if consumers had questions. While Starbucks may argue that the product names simply describe the flavors of their beverages, the question at hand is whether or not these names mislead consumers about the actual ingredients. According to U.S. District Judge John Cronan, a significant portion of reasonable consumers would expect the drinks to contain the fruits mentioned in their names. This suggests that Starbucks' argument may not hold up in court.
The plaintiffs' claims that the beverages lacked the advertised fruit ingredients, such as mango, passion fruit, and açai, bring into question Starbucks' marketing and labeling practices. If a consumer purchases a beverage with a fruit name expecting it to contain that fruit, only to find that it does not, it could be seen as deceptive and a violation of consumer protection laws. Starbucks' defense that their baristas could have clarified any confusion if consumers had questions assumes that every customer will inquire about the ingredients, which may not always be the case.
Overall, this ruling implies that Starbucks will have to face a lawsuit regarding their Refresher fruit beverages. The outcome of the case will likely depend on whether the court deems the names of the beverages misleading and whether reasonable consumers would expect the drinks to contain the fruits mentioned in their names. Starbucks may need to reconsider its marketing and labeling practices, ensuring that its product names accurately represent the ingredients within its beverages to avoid potential lawsuits and allegations of deceptive labeling in the future.