May 11, 2023
The "Reasonable Consumer Standard"
A consumer class action suit targeted Stauffer Biscuit Co.'s “Lemon Snaps” cookies.
At issue was an ingredients claim, specifically whether Stauffer's created the false impression that its cookies contained a “non-de minimis amount of lemon ingredients in them.”
The plaintiff further alleged that the cookies in fact, have “no appreciable amount of lemon.”
The plaintiff's claim was based on what consumers would infer from the following messaging.
- The cookies were named “Lemon Snaps.”
- The packaging had a yellow background.
- The packaging showed images of large lemons.
How was the "reasonable consumer standard" applied in this case?
The plaintiff's claim centered on the “reasonable consumer” standard required by the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act.
For a plaintiff to prevail, the “reasonable consumer” standard requires a showing that Stouffer's advertising “creates a likelihood of deception or has the capacity to “deceive” reasonable consumers.
Stouffer's filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint.
The court ruled in favor of Stouffer and dismissed the false advertising claims.
The court's rationale was that Stouffer's text, packaging color, and lemon images did not create any implied claim that lemon ingredients were in the product.
The court reasoned that "the representations on the Lemon Snaps packaging do not create a likelihood of deception or have the capacity to deceive consumers because a reasonable consumer would not interpret the packaging as implying that actual lemons are used in Lemon Snaps."
Messaging options that may have resulted in a different result
The court did point out that it may have ruled differently if Stouffer's messaging included the following:
- a “made with lemon” statement, or
- or if the cookies turned out to have a citrus flavor other than lemon.
It's all about how a "reasonable consumer" would infer Stouffer's messaging.
The court's summary statement: "... a reasonable consumer buys Lemon Snaps expecting lemon-flavored cookies, which is precisely what she gets."