A federal judge ruled this week that Vitaminwater will not, as its labels promise, keep you “healthy as a horse.” Nor will it bring about a “healthy state of physical or mental being”. Instead, Vitaminwater is really just a sugary snack food; non-carbonated fruit coke disguised as a sports drink. Because it’s composed mostly of sugar and not vitamin-laden water, judge John Gleeson held that Vitaminwater’s absurd marketing claims were likely to mislead consumers.
Coke tried to explain away claims like “vitamins + water = all you need” as “only puffery.” The judge disagreed.
By including the suggestion that the product will “keep you healthy” or “help bring about a healthy state of physical and mental being” alongside such statements, the quoted language implies that the nutrient content of vitaminwater may help consumers maintain healthy dietary practices. I conclude, therefore, in light of the language and context in which they are used, that the statements on the “defense” and “B- Relaxed” labels constitute implied nutrient content claims which use the word “healthy.” Such claims are in violation of violation of FDA regulations because . . . vitaminwater achieves its nutritional content solely through fortification that violates FDA policy.
The ruling rejected Coca Cola’s motion to dismiss a class action suit brought by the scrappy do-gooders at the Center for Science in the Interest. The case should now be clear for trial, although it could settle if Coke is willing to change Vitaminwater’s name to something less misleading. Cake in a Can, perhaps?
Lawsuit Over Deceptive Vitaminwater Claims to Proceed [CSPI] (Press Release)
Order on Motion to Dismiss [U.S. District Court] (pdf)