(NEW YORK) — Imagine walking into the grocery store and craving a milk chocolate ice cream bar. Not just any milk chocolate, but a coffee almond crunch bar by Häagen-Dazs. The box advertises on the front that it’s dipped in rich milk chocolate, almonds, and toffee. That one bite of that creamy, crunchy, soft, smooth, milky taste entering your mouth. That was the plan for Lauren Yu, but when she took a bite she tasted a less satisfying, oily mouthful that left a bad aftertaste, according to her lawsuit against the ice cream maker’s parent company Froneri Inc.
Yu’s suit, filed on Oct. 13 in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, claims that Froneri Inc distributed, manufactured, marketed, labeled, and sold ice cream bars claiming to be dipped in milk chocolate. The ice cream bars are advertised as being dipped into milk chocolate, covered with toffee, and almonds under the Häagen-Dazs brand. The flavor is available for consumers in retail stores and online sold individually or in packages of three.
According to the complaint, consumers want real chocolate in their chocolate products, so that chocolate should come from a real source like cacao beans. “The unqualified, prominent, and conspicuous representation the product contains, and is dipped in milk chocolate is false, deceptive, and misleading because the purported chocolate contains ingredients that consumers do not expect in chocolate like vegetable oils. Today, companies are trying to save money on chocolate by adulterating chocolate products with synthetics and substitutes with a cheaper ingredient such as lower quality vegetable oils,” Yu’s attorney Spencer Sheehan told The Click.
Sheehan said the product’s front label claims that the bar is covered in rich milk chocolate. Consumers expect that it has only chocolate ingredients, but that is not accurate, he explained. Sheehan believes the defendant is selling this lesser product at a higher cost which he says is unethical. According to the Häagen-Dazs nutrition label posted by Instacart for the product sold by Publix, the ice cream bars are covered in a “milk chocolate and vegetable oil coating.” The ingredients are listed as: “Coffee Ice Cream: Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Coffee. Milk Chocolate and Vegetable Oil Coating with Almonds and Toffee: Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract), Coconut Oil, Almonds Roasted in Vegetable Oil (Almonds, Safflower Oil), Toffee (Corn Syrup, Sugar, Butter [Cream, Salt], Brown Sugar, Almonds, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Salt).”
Sheehan says his client would not have purchased the product or paid as much if the true facts have been known. “The plaintiff bought this product because she liked the product type for its intended use, and it’s expected to only contain a chocolate coating not vegetable oil.”
“This is a proposed class action alleging a wrong which affects numerous individuals. Lauren Yu is the named plaintiff, but her role is on behalf of similarly situated consumers who experienced the same misrepresentations. The complaint alleges the products are represented in a misleading way. The goal is to correct those misrepresentations. Ms. Yu is not available to speak at this point,” Sheehan said.
Asked why his client would sue over a bar costing only a few dollars, Sheehan said: “If lawsuits didn’t exist where the individual harm was less than the cost of filing suit, would that mean companies could do the wrong things and consumers should just shrug and say,’ Well I guess we can’t do anything.'”
Froneri did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment on the litigation. When The Click contacted Häagen-Dazs through its toll-free line, a customer service representative was not able to address the lawsuit or the problems that Yu raised. One customer identified as Carol on the Häagen-Dazs site complained three years ago about Coffee Almond Crunch bars. “I purchased a box of Haagen Daz bars at the Eden Prairie Costco and noticed that some of the bars had ice cream with a mealy texture. I had to throw those bars away because they did not taste normal nor have a rich ice cream texture.” Häagen-Dazs responded, “We’re so sorry that our Coffee and Almond Crunch Bar did not have a rich taste as expected. We’d like to learn more from your experience and make this up to you. Please expect an email from us soon.”
The case is Yu v. Froneri US, Inc. (United States District Court, Southern District of New York)