Del Monte Foods' fresh fruit claims ruled fraudulent

04/09/2012 09:46:00 AM
Tom Karst

For more background, see:  Del Monte vs. Del Monte: What makes fruit fresh?

(UPDATED COVERAGE, 5 p.m.) Jurors have awarded $13.15 million in damages to Fresh Del Monte after deciding that Del Monte Foods went too far in marketing processed fruit in the produce department as fresh — but jars of the tropical fruit won’t necessarily disappear from refrigerated cases.

The April 6 ruling is from a 2008 lawsuit filed by the Coral Gables, Fla.-based fresh produce company against San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods. Under the terms of a licensing agreement in place since the splitting the company’s fresh and processed divisions in 1989, Fresh Del Monte has the ongoing and exclusive right to sell “fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh produce” under the Del Monte name and brand.

According to the jury, marketing refrigerated fruit in the produce department under the labels “Fruit Naturals,” “Superfruit” and “SunFresh” misled consumers and violated trademark infringement and false advertising laws.

“Obviously, We were extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict, and that they found our rights had been violated under our license agreement,” said Bruce Jordan, senior vice president and general counsel for Fresh Del Monte Produce Co.

Jordan said the advertising, marketing, packaging and labeling of those products were confusing to some consumers, who believed those products were fresh rather than processed. The jury also ruled that Del Monte Food’s “Fruit Undressed” print advertising campaign violated the Lanham Act’s false advertising standards.

The jury said, however, that Del Monte Foods' marketing of the Orchard Select line does not violate the act.

Jurors awarded $7.2 million for to willful violation of the Lanham Act, according to court documents.

The six-member jury also found that Del Monte Foods Co. breached the license agreement by selling refrigerated products containing pineapple, melon, berries, papayas and bananas. Damages tied to Del Monte Foods' breach of contract were $5.95 million.

“Those five products were at the core of our breach of contract claim,” Jordan said. “We maintained we had exclusive right to those products as refrigerated products, whether fresh or preserved,” he said.


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JC Cook    
Wilmington,NC  |  April, 09, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Mom was right. I should have been a lawyer.

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