Cold-pressed juice company WTRMLN WTR is facing a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that the brand is deceiving consumers by overstating the amount of watermelon juice in its core product and claiming that its products are not pasteurized or heated.
In a complaint filed against parent company World Waters LLC and World Waters Holdings, LLC in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York on July 8, attorneys for lead plaintiff Michael Pizzirusso argue that WTRMLN WTR’s product labels, in describing the liquid with the words “cold pressed juiced watermelon,” falsely represent that it consists of only watermelon juice. The proposed suit alleges violations of New York consumer protection laws, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, and fraud.
WTRMLN WTR’s flagship product is a high pressure processed blend of watermelon juice and organic lemon juice. The brand currently has five SKUs: original, Cherry, Ginger, Lemon and Lime.
By separately listing “watermelon flesh” and “watermelon rind” as ingredients, rather than using just “watermelon” or “watermelon juice,” the complaint posits that the company aims to deceptively “crowd out” the non-watermelon ingredients and “evoke a stronger connection to the fruit than other watermelon-based products.”
The complaint also cites issues related to WTRMLN WTR’s use of the terms “cold pressed” and “cold pressured” to describe some of its products. WTRMLN WTR’s original and Cherry varieties, for example, are referred to as “cold pressed,” while the Ginger, Lime and Lemon flavors are “cold pressured.” The two terms, attorneys say, are confusingly similar in appearance, sound, and the manner in which they are presented on packaging, and as such the two processes could be reasonably interpreted as being indistinct from each other.
By not explicitly stating that the product has been high pressure processed, as on similar juice products cited in examples, the complaint asserts that WTRMLN WTR implies that the juice is just cold-pressed and undergoes no further treatment.
The complaint argues that “Because cold pressed juice is the name established by common usage for juice sold after only being cold pressed, “Cold Pressed Juice[d]” and “Cold Pressure Juice[d]” are false, deceptive and misleading names and descriptions for the Products.”
Finally, the plaintiff’s attorneys affirm that WTRMLN WTR misleads its customers by stating on its website that its products are not pasteurized or heated, when in fact the contents of the bottles increase in temperature during high pressure processing.
In response to the query “Is WTRMLN WTR pasteurized?” in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its website, the response reads: “No. WTRMLN WTR is never heated. It is produced using a High Pressure Process (HPP) that protects the enzymes and nutrients, but eliminates the micro-organisms.”
The complaint noted that the definition of pasteurization has evolved over time to include both thermal and nonthermal processes by which food safety is achieved, but that reasonable consumers, including the plaintiff, are not aware that pasteurization can be achieved without heat.
The document reads, “Defendants’ failure to accurately and non-deceptively label the Products is misleading in its own right and when considered in light of comparably manufactured products which are not labeled deceptively.”
The plaintiff is seeking class certification, injunctive relief, damages, attorney’s fees and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper. The class is defined as all consumers who purchased any WTRMLN WTR products at any time during the period within the applicable statute of limitations.
Representatives for WTRMLN WTR did not respond to a request for comment on this story.