The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has dismissed a court case claiming that Blue Diamond’s almond milk is deceptively mislabeled and confusing for consumers.
This decision backs up a ruling by the United States District Court for the Central District of California, which dismissed the case made by Cynthia Painter in May 2017.
The plaintiff insisted that Blue Diamond’s almond milk should be labeled as “imitation milk,” in a weak argument that alleges consumers are not smart enough to distinguish between dairy-based and plant-based milk.
The complainant alleged that the company “deceptively markets its almond beverages as nutritionally equivalent or superior to dairy milk when, in fact, almond beverages are nutritionally inferior to dairy milk.”
Thankfully, the courts did not buy into this argument, acknowledging that consumers are aware of the products they purchase and putting a quick end to this ridiculous case.
This case is seen as a desperate attempt by the dairy industry to stifle the growing demand for plant-based alternatives. The court docket itself states that while sales of almond milk increased by around 40% between 2013-2014, dairy milk sales declined.
Rather than attribute this demand to a growing ethical and moral consumer drive, they claim that it’s because consumers think almond milk is the same thing as cow’s milk.
The memorandum released by the court of appeals concisely debunks the argument, stating:
“Painter’s complaint does not plausibly allege that a reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing that Blue Diamond’s almond milk products are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk based on their package labels and advertising. The district court correctly concluded that “[n]o reasonable consumer could be misled by [Blue Diamond’s] unambiguous labeling or factually accurate nutritional statements.”
Although it’s reassuring to see the courts take a stand against such claims, plant-based dairy alternatives are still under the spotlight of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In September 2018, the FDA issued a notice inviting public comment on “Use of the Names of Dairy Foods in the Labeling of Plant-Based Products,” targeting things like vegan cheese, milk, and yogurt. The agency state that they are concerned that consumers may not understand the nutritional differences between dairy and non-dairy milks.