The plaintiffs, Joshua Wasser, Ila Gold and Alyssa Rechman, claim that because some Vita Coco products are manufactured in other countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, All Market “is unjustly enriched by continuing to market and sell its product – coconut water – in a way that misleads consumers into believing that all Vita Coco is Brazilian, manufactured in Brazil and made from Brazilian coconuts.”
The lawsuit, which was filed on April 7 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also alleges that Vita Coco packaging “mimics the colors of the Brazilian flag and spirit” and is “designed to instill the belief in its consumers that Vita Coco remains affiliated with everything Brazilian” and that its coconut water is sourced from Brazil.
Vita Coco launched in 2004 and All Market initially sourced all of its coconut water from Brazil. The company marketed its coconut water with the tagline “Made in Brazil.” In the years that followed, All Market began sourcing its liquid from other countries and modified the statement to “Imported from Brazil.” The lawsuit claims that the revised tagline of “Born in Brazil” deceives consumers.
Although the plaintiffs acknowledge that Vita Coco packaging includes information about the origin of the coconut water, they assert that it is “small, hidden on the side of the Container, blends into the background color and, at times, is not even visible to the consumer.”
“In direct contrast, Vita Coco’s “born in brazil” slogan is in larger dark font, bold, and prominently displayed on the face of the Container,” the lawsuit reads.
The plaintiffs allege that the packaging is intended to deceive consumers and enable Vita Coco to be sold at “prices substantially higher than those of other coconut water brands that are manufactured in other parts of the world.”
In a company statement, All Market said that “the phrase ‘Born in Brazil,’ which has been used in one form or another for approximately 10 years, is brand-centric copywriting, literally referring to the origins of the company.” The company noted that its coconut water packaging “fully complies with applicable FDA guidelines and clearly states each beverage’s country of origin on the container’s Nutrition Facts Panel.”
The company called the lawsuit “an insult to both the consumers who take the time to read food and beverage labels properly and the brands that work so hard to be honest with them.”
On May 13, All Market filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit “arguing no reasonable consumer would take “Born in Brazil” to mean the product rather than the company was ‘born’ there,” according to an article on Law.com.
The lawsuit is reminiscent of one filed against Anheuser-Busch InBev. In that case, plaintiffs alleged that the company’s Beck’s Beer brand was deceptively marketed with taglines such as “originated in Germany,” despite the fact that the beer was produced in St. Louis. Last year Anheuser-Busch settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $20 million to consumers adversely affected by the marketing and change Beck’s packaging.