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Ocean Spray: ‘We’ve always said POM’s claims had no merit’

By Elaine Watson , 07-Dec-2011

POM Wonderful has failed to convince a federal jury that Ocean Spray Cranberries misled shoppers and deprived POM of potential sales by selling a pomegranate juice product containing only 2% pomegranate juice.

POM sued Ocean Spray in 2009 under federal trademark law, accusing it of false advertising by giving the impression that its Cranberry & Pomegranate juice contained more pomegranate juice than it does (its two main ingredients are grape and apple juice but it includes pictures of pomegranates on the label).

‘We’ve said from the beginning POM’s claims had no merit’

It also argued that consumers had been “tricked” into thinking they were getting a product similar to POM Wonderful’s juice for a lower price, thus depriving POM of potential sales – and demanded $18.1m in damages.

But a federal jury yesterday rejected the claims after less than two hours of deliberations, the National Law Journal said.

Ocean Spray spokesman John Isaf told NutraIngredients-USA: “We are pleased with the verdict and that the jury agreed with our view that our labels and advertising on our 100% Cranberry Pomegranate Juice Blend are truthful.

“We’ve said from the beginning of litigation almost three years ago that POM’s claims had no merit.”

POM was unavailable for comment as this article went to press.

No damages - again

POM, which has brought similar cases against other juice rivals including Welch Foods and Tropicana Products, has so far been unsuccessful in attempts to recover damages.

While a federal jury found Welch Foods had deceived consumers in the labeling of its White Grape Pomegranate juice last September, it nevertheless awarded POM no damages.

Two months later, another federal jury found that Tropicana Products’ labeling of its Pure Pomegranate Blueberry juice had not deceived consumers.

FTC case vs POM: ‘We don’t expect a verdict imminently’

Meanwhile, there is still no news on the high-profile Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case against POM.

An FTC spokeswoman told NutraIngredients-USA last month: “It’s not clear when the judge will rule. The trial has not concluded, and the same judge is working on other trials, so we don’t expect a verdict imminently.”

In its complaint, which POM has dismissed as “completely unwarranted”, the FTC accused POM of making deceptive disease prevention and treatment claims in ads in high-profile publications including The New York Times, plus its own websites.

Two-clinical trial standard

Separately, the FTC is still waiting for a judge to rule on a motion to dismiss legal action brought by POM alleging the FTC had exceeded its statutory authority by establishing a two-clinical trial standard to back health claims.

An FTC spokeswoman told NutraIngredients-USA: “The pending ruling is on whether to grant the motion filed by the Department of Justice to dismiss the case.”

POM Wonderful is the largest producer of California Wonderful pomegranates, which are used in its POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice and a range of other products including bars, supplements, shots and beverages.