Greek yogurt maker Chobani is being forced to remove ads which claim that its competitors are using ingredients that are potentially unsafe for consumers.
A judge on Friday said the company must remove advertising that focuses on claims that other products are using artificial preservatives and sweeteners that are unsafe for consumers.
Chobani was sued by General Mills, maker of Yoplait, and Dannon, manufacturer of Light & Fit Greek Yogurt.
At issue was a Chobani campaign called “Simply 100” that touted Chobani’s natural ingredients while taking aim at its competitors use of artificial additives.
General Mills and Dannon each sued Chobani. They claim the ads are misleading consumers into thinking their products are unsafe.
In one prominent Chobani ad, a woman throws away a cup of Yoplait after discovering it contains potassium sorbate. “That stuff is used to kill bugs,” a voiceover says.
Another Chobani commercial features another female, this time as she picks up Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt. A voiceover says the product contains sucralose: “That stuff has chlorine added to it!”
A federal judge in New York says Chobani must remove the ads from the internet. The company had already ended their TV run.
The court order also forbids Chobani from making certain claims about rivals’ products in print and on social media.
“General Mills supports fair and vigorous competition between companies, but false advertising only misleads and harms consumers,” company spokesman Mike Siemienas said.
A spokesman for Dannon added that the court ruling is a “first step in a victory for consumers who love Light & Fit.”
Chobani is still free to promote the value of natural ingredients. The company can’t however send a false message that potassium sorbate renders Yoplait Greek 100 unsafe to consume.
“This is not a marketing campaign, it’s a mindset campaign, and it outlines the difference between using only natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani.
In the meantime, a growing number of consumers are starting to avoid foods that contain artificial ingredients and manufacturers are starting to respond by moving those ingredients from their food supply.