May 28 2012
Nutella Class Action Lawsuit
In December 2010, Athena Hohenberg of San Diego, California learned that Nutella, the famous hazelnut-chocolate spread made by Ferrero, was not the healthy breakfast staple she had believed it to be. She had chosen Nutella as a healthy breakfast treat for her children based on a commercial she had seen that promoted the product. According to her complaint, she was not aware that Nutella had the nutritional equivalent of a chocolate candy bar until her friends clued her in.
a lawsuit against Ferrero for using deceptive marketing and advertising practices to convince consumers to purchase Nutella. The suit alleges that Ferrero promotes Nutella as a “wholesome” product that is part of a balanced breakfast. As a result, Ferrero may be paying a $3 million settlement as part of a class action lawsuit. $2.5 million has been set aside to pay for the class action lawsuit, which will pay the affected class $4 per jar of Nutella purchased since January 1, 2008 until early 2012.
The commercial in question portrays a busy mother who is struggling to get her children to sit down for breakfast. The narrator states that that the tasty spread makes a great topping for whole-grain bread or waffles, but fails to clarify that the health benefits are not provided by the Nutella. The commercial states that the product uses wholesome ingredients such as hazelnuts, skim milk and “a hint of cocoa.” Although it may seem obvious that a hazelnut-chocolate topping would not have much in the way of nutritional value, the commercial does seem to imply that Nutella is a smart choice for health-conscious consumers.
Although the lawsuit has been ridiculed in the media, the success of this class action claim brings interesting perspective to the use of advertising in consumers’ product choices. Many critics suggest that Hohenberg needed only to look at the label to realize that Nutella was far from a healthy breakfast staple. However, the nature of advertising is to persuade consumers to select a certain product over its competitors. Consumers often rely on advertising to make decisions about the products they purchase rather than reading the labels on the products they are considering.
As a result of this lawsuit, Ferraro will be required to change its marketing and promotional materials to avoid misleading statements regarding the nutritional benefits of Nutella.
Terms of the Class Action
There are currently two class action lawsuits pending against Ferrero. The first affects consumers who purchased Nutella in California, and the second applies to consumers who purchased Nutella in any other state. These class action lawsuits are expected to be finalized at a fairness hearing in June.