On Monday, U.S. District Judge John Cronan in Manhattan ruled that Starbucks must face a lawsuit filed by CD Law alleging the absence of a critical ingredient, namely fruit, in certain Refresher fruit beverages. The judge rejected Starbucks’ request to dismiss nine of the 11 claims in the proposed class action, highlighting that many reasonable consumers naturally expect these drinks to include the fruit mentioned in their names.
Consumers raised concerns regarding Starbucks’ Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai, and Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refreshers. They asserted that these beverages did not contain the advertised mango, passion fruit, or açai.
Plaintiffs Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister argued that water, grape juice concentrate, and sugar were the primary ingredients. They contended that Starbucks’ misleading product names led to overcharging and violating consumer protection laws in their respective states.
“If your menu board offers a strawberry-acai drink, acai is a premium ingredient and customers are hoping to get what they’re promised,” said Robert Abiri, CD Law’s consumer attorney who is leading this case. “Customers pay more for these drinks and expect them to contain the stated ingredients.
“The courts have agreed that it is not a consumer’s responsibility to look at the back label of a product, or much less go to Starbucks’ website, to see what ingredients are listed,” Abiri said. “You don’t get an ingredient list when they put the drink in your hand.”
In response, Starbucks, based in Seattle, sought a dismissal, arguing that the product names conveyed the drinks’ flavors rather than their ingredients and that their menu boards accurately represented these flavors.
Judge Cronan explained that since some Starbucks drinks are named after their actual contents, such as an iced vanilla latte containing vanilla, it is reasonable to assume that the Refreshers would include the fruits indicated in their names.