Milk Takes Center Stage in New Cytosport Lawsuit

Muscle Milk bottlesMuscle Milk beverages and powders contain no actual milk, and Cytosport, which markets the brand, has been deceiving consumers for years. That’s the chief allegation in a new lawsuit filed against Cytosport, according to Law360.com, and comes nearly three years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the company that its marketing and labels might mislead consumers.

The lawsuit was brought by Global Beverage Enterprises Inc., which markets a number of carbonated soft drinks, including Sweet Blossom Soda and Mr. Q. Cumber. In the complaint, Global Beverage claims that the name Muscle Milk misrepresents the products and that Cytosport is unfairly profiting from the benefits associated with milk.

“[Cytosport] markets its Muscle Milk products to suggest to consumers that the products contain milk, and thus are healthier beverages when compared to competitor’s products, including the plaintiff’s product,”

Global Beverage also alleges that Cytosport labels and markets the Muscle Milk products with wording that consumers normally associate with milk and milk-based products, including “lactose-free,” “chocolate malt,” and “shake.”

The complaint is seeking an injunction on the use of the word “milk” in marketing of all Muscle Milk products that do not contain any actual milk, and the cancellation of seven Muscle Milk trademarks.

Certainly, it’s not the first time that Cytosport has found itself in hot water regarding the marketing of Muscle Milk. The company recently settled a 2011 false advertising lawsuit which alleged that despite 50 percent of Muscle Milk beverages’ caloric content coming from fats, Cytosport nevertheless misrepresented its Muscle Milk products as healthy and nutritious. The company denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $5,275,000 million to consumers negatively affected by the marketing.

The FDA’s warning to Cytosport came in July, 2011 in which the agency also took issue with the name “Muscle Milk” despite its beverages’ lack of actual milk and their positioning as healthy products. And while Cytosport held off a prior inquiry by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by adding the phrase “contains no milk” to its labels, the FDA was concerned that the statement might be misleading because the products list milk-derived ingredients like calcium and milk protein isolate.

The lawsuit comes amid a rumored sale of Cytosport, which in October was said to put itself up for auction, and is rumored to have gained significant interest from three companies, including nutrition, ingredient and cheese conglomerate Glanbia.