Chobani ads that had blasted rival yogurt makers, accusing them of selling unsafe products filled with preservatives have recently been banned by a federal judge.
The verdict was issued on Friday, January 29, at a New York courthouse, and comes on the heels of two separate lawsuits filed by General Mills and Dannon against Chobani.
Chobani, a food company based in Norwich, New York, is considered to be the most successful yogurt producer in the United States, specializing in Greek-style dairy, and always launching new products and flavors in order to maintain an edge over its rivals.
Now it appears that Chobani took its competitive streak a bit too far, lashing out against its main adversaries: Paris-based Dannon, which has a line of Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt, and Minneapolis-based General Mills, which sells Yoplait yogurt as part of a partnership with French dairy company Sodiaal.
During an advertising campaign titled “Simply 100” and unveiled on January 6, Chobani emphasized that its products are completely natural, unlike those manufactured by Dannon and General Mills.
The manner of getting that point across was anything but subtle, Chobani advertisers actually coming so far as to suggest that dairy products commercialized by rival companies are strewn with preservatives, and therefore unfit for consumption.
For instance, one commercial which has already been broadcast extensively on TV, shows a woman discarding a Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt after reading its ingredient list and finding out the food contains a chemical known as potassium sorbate (E202).
In the ad, the woman turns to Chobani’s Simply 100 Greek yogurt instead, while an off-stage commentary warns consumers that this preservative can be used as an insecticide, and therefore shouldn’t be ingested on a regular basis.
Another television spot featured in the “Simply 100” campaign takes aim at General Mills, presenting another woman who’s about to have a Dannon Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt. Meanwhile, a voice in the background can be heard alerting the viewer that such food items contain sucralose (chlorinated artificial sweeteners).
Given that one of chlorine’s byproducts is dioxin, a toxic substance estimated b the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as 30,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT, the underlying message of the ad is that General Mills’ dairy selections should also be avoided.
Now, it appears that Chobani ads accusing Dannon and General Mills of making hazardous food products will no longer be allowed to circulate online, because they have just been determined to be overly malicious and even misleading by engaging in product disparagement, according to the Lanham Act.
On TV, the campaign had already ended long before the court verdict was pronounced, but from now on any trace of the ads will also have to be removed from the Internet.
In addition, from now on, Chobani will be able to emphasize the fact that its dairy products are entirely natural and healthy, but will be banned from alluding that the ingredients its adversaries use represent a danger to potential consumers.
In response to this court decision, General Mills representative Mike Siemienas has expressed his contentment that an alleged instance of unethical competition resulting in false advertising has been acknowledged and promptly discouraged.
Similarly, Dannon representatives have also applauded the ruling against the Chobani ads, declaring that consumers who enjoy Light & Fit Greek yogurt shouldn’t be deterred by misleading commercials contesting the safety and integrity of these dairy products.
On the other hand, Chobani’s chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness has deplored the preliminary injunction, stating that people should be alerted regarding the chemicals they ingest on a daily basis, so that they can make more informed and health-conscious choices.
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