Minimalist protein bar brand RXBar had a nearly perfect run in the nutrition bar category as they topped the list for fastest online sales growth in 2017 and caught the eye of CPG giant Kellogg in October. However, it seems that RXBar’s simple four-to-six ingredients per bar were too good to be true. Well, at least for consumer Michael Pizzirusso, who filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the brand for false labeling claims.
Pizzirusso’s complaint was officially filed on June 15 in New York by Spencer Sheehan of Sheehan & Associates and Joshua Levin-Epstein of Levin-Epstein & Associates. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, RXBar has misled consumers by labeling two of their key ingredients as simply “egg whites” and “fruit.” Pizzirusso claims that RXBar uses egg white fractions that should be labeled as “egg white protein powder” instead of just “egg whites.” The second allegation to his claim was that the company uses fruit-infused pieces (dried fruit pieces that are sweetened with concentrated fruit juices), however, RXBar simply labels them as “fruit” such as blueberries.
Additionally, Pizzirusso claims that RXBar used to list “egg white protein powder” and “dried wild blueberries infused with apple juice concentrate” on their old packaging but now they have changed the names of their ingredients in order to appeal to more consumers. According to his lawsuit, the formulation for RXBar has not changed but the packaging has, however, Pizzirusso has no proof on his assumption other than the fact that RXBar used to list these ingredients.
“Consumers would not be as drawn to a product which boldly promoted the presence of ‘egg white protein powder.’ Furthermore, parents correctly wouldn’t want to buy their young children foods which contained concentrated protein powders, for a variety of reasons related to normal adolescent and child development,” Pizzirusso told Food Navigator.
In response, RXBar told Food Navigator that, “We stand by our product and packaging.”
So, it seems that RXBar is not fazed by the potential lawsuit. This might be because Pizzirusso has no proof for his claims other than previous packaging labels. The plaintiff also needs to prove that other consumers feel the same way he does about such false labeling claims because he did not provide any evidence on his assumptions.
However, Pizzirusso’s complaint has the potential to damage the RXBar brand with all of the media attention the case is getting. Due to the fact that RXBar is a rising star in the protein bar category, this potential lawsuit could deter their health-focused consumers. With transparency being one of the top consumer demands in the food industry, RXBar might lose consumer trust as well.
This isn’t the first time a consumer initiated a lawsuit due to false ingredient claims. In March, a San Diego, California-based couple filed two lawsuits against Frito-Lay and Pringles for false “naturally-flavored” claims on their packaging. As the all-natural trend continues to grow, food manufacturers are advised to be honest with their packaging claims because consumers are now more inquisitive than before and they are armed with the power of the internet.