Class Action Lawsuit Targets Miyoko’s Vegan Butter for ‘Misleading’ Customers

These days, if you presume to call your vegan product “milk” or “meat,” prepare to do battle. The producers of the animal versions of those products are putting a target on your back. The latest company in the crosshairs? Miyoko’s Kitchen.

Miyoko’s Kitchen offers up artisanal vegan cheeses and vegan butter. And this vegan butter isn’t your typical palm-oil-based butter substitute. Rather, the ingredients include coconut oil, sunflower oil and cultured cashews to recreate a realistic non-dairy butter. It spreads and melts like the real thing.

Fans of Miyoko Kitchen’s products rave about them. Happy consumers have turned the company into a plant-based success story.

But, all of a sudden, someone filed a class action lawsuit in late October 2018 to challenge Miyoko’s Kitchen’s marketing approach.

Unlike other lawsuits against plant-based alternative foods, this lawsuit doesn’t allege that consumers will be confused between “real” butter and vegan butter. Instead, it argues that consumers are being misled because they would expect that Miyoko’s products “are nutritionally equivalent to butter or margarine, when they are inferior — lacking vitamin A, D, E and calcium.’”​

The complaint alleges that Miyoko’s products “bask in dairy’s ‘halo’ by using familiar terms to invoke positive traits — including the significant levels of various nutrients typically associated with real dairy foods.”

Really, dairy’s “halo”? I’m fairly confident few of us buying vegan butter think of the dairy industry as deserving of angelic descriptors. It’s cruel and heartless in myriad ways — and that’s why so many of us are turning to plant-based alternatives.

The real assertion here is that Miyoko’s dared to use the word “butter” on its packaging when its product doesn’t have all the attributes of dairy butter.

“It is false and misleading for the Products to not be labeled as an imitation (whether of butter or margarine) in a manner as prominent as it promotes its equivalence to butter,” the complaint alleges.

So the beef — if you’ll pardon the expression — is that the word “vegan” isn’t big enough on the packaging?

You mean the packaging that says right on its face that it’s “vegan butter”? The package that’s stocked in the grocery cold case with all the other non-dairy plant-based products so vegans can find them? The one that’s significantly more expensive than dairy butter? The one that plant-based eaters specifically seek out because it’s vegan and it’s really good? That one?

In fact, Miyoko’s Kitchen has gone through a series of package redesigns as its product grew in popularity. Where the packaging once said “Melts, browns, bakes and spreads like butter,” now it says “Melts, browns, bakes, and spreads phenomenally.” The words “Made from Plants” now appear prominently on the box. The words “cultured vegan” are now in larger font above the word “butter.” A vegan logo now appears on the front as well.

Photo credit: Miyoko's Kitchen Facebook page

Photo credit: Miyoko’s Kitchen Facebook page

All these updates apparently took place before the lawsuit was filed on October 30, 2018.

Why did the product call itself butter in the first place? That’s easy, says company founder Miyoko Schinner. She told Food Navigator:

We really believe that the landscape of dairy is changing rapidly and innovation is driving that change. We’re trying to revolutionize how we make dairy products by making them from plants, and we believe that is going to become the new norm.​

We want to really drive the conversation about what exactly constitutes a ‘dairy’ product in the future. There may come a time when all dairy products come from plants and at that point, you could ask are they really ‘dairy free’ or are they the new dairy?

This lawsuit will be a tough sell. Food regulations permit products to be called by an “appropriately descriptive term,” attorney Bill Acevedo told Food Navigator.

Indeed, we’ve already seen a lawsuit pertaining to WhiteWave Foods products, the maker of Silk plant-based milks. The federal district court in that case held that names like soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk “clearly convey the basic nature and content of the beverages, while clearly distinguishing them from milk that is derived from dairy cows.”

Are a group of “concerned” consumers truly behind this class action lawsuit against Miyoko’s Kitchen, or is this Big Dairy once again, taking a different tack?

No one buys vegan butter expecting it to be nutritionally equivalent. They buy it because they want a plant-based butter that tastes good and functions similarly to butter in cooking and baking. Those worried about nutrition read nutrition labels and make decisions accordingly.

Just stop it with these ridiculous lawsuits. Plant-based alternatives are here to stay.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

83 comments

Ingrid A
Ingrid A5 days ago

Thanks

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Latoya Brookins
Latoya B7 days ago

Animal abusers are scared of vegan sales even though meat & dairy still unfortunately are the majority.

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John W
John W8 days ago

What a frivolous lawsuit! TYFST

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Greta L
Greta L8 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Barbara S
Barbara S14 days ago

thank you

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Mely Lu
Mely L15 days ago

TYFS

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Michael Friedmann

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Salla T
Salla Tuu18 days ago

Ty

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Hannah K
Hannah K19 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Salla T
Salla Tuu20 days ago

So sad. Future is vegan.

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