There's some serious yogurt-slinging going on in your grocer's dairy case. Long-reigning yogurt king Dannon filed a cease-and-desist against Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani for a disparaging ad campaign, and now Chobani has fired back with a lawsuit of its own.
It all started with Chobani's recent launch of a new ad campaign for its "Simply 100" low-calorie yogurt. In one ad, a woman tosses aside a cup of Dannon Light 'n Fit as the narrator points out it contains the artificial sweetener sucralose. "Sucralose, whyyyy?," the narrator heaves. "That stuff has chlorine added to it!" This sort of "ZOMG chemicals!!!" fear-mongering didn't sit too well with Dannon or its lawyers, which promptly sent Chobani a cease-and-desist letter.
Now, per a news release from Chobani, "Chobani is seeking a declaration from the Court that Chobani's advertising for its Chobani Simply 100® Greek Yogurt products is not false, misleading, disparaging or deceptive." The release further points out that the company's statement about sucralose — better known as Splenda — being processed with chlorine is a fact backed up by the FDA. (It does not, however, note that more than 110 safety studies have been done on sucralose, leading the FDA to declare it perfectly safe for human consumption.)
"Consumers have the right to know what's in their cup. This campaign is fundamentally about choice—the choice between natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients," says Chobani's chief marketing officer Peter Guinness. But per the New York Times, a lawyer for Dannon claims the ads violate New York state laws as well as "the Lanham Act, a federal law that, among other things, protects companies from unfair competition and is often cited in cases contending false and misleading advertising." Now it's up to a judge to decide which yogurt-maker is in the right.
Chobani's campaign for its naturally-sweetened yogurt falls right in line with a recent trend of food manufacturers and restaurant chains pledging to remove artificial ingredients from their products. One of the most widely publicized ingredient controversies erupted when blogger FoodBabe led a charge to get Subway to remove a so-called "yoga mat chemical" from its bread.
Watch the offending Chobani ad, below: