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Popcorn Indiana Lawsuit Is All About Location

What role do geographic origin branding and on-packaging claims play with consumer assumptions? Alston & Bird weighs in.

Alston & Bird

November 21, 2023

2 Min Read

The law firm of Alston & Bird has seen an uptick in geographic origin food labeling cases over the past few years — from King’s Hawaiian rolls made outside the Aloha State to Texas Pete hot sauce manufactured in North Carolina to pink Himalayan Sea Salt that’s not sourced from “the heart of the Himalayan Mountains.”

Courts have found that some managed to state plausible claims for relief, but most have “air-balled” any meaningful argument.

As the next up in this line of cases, one disgruntled consumer challenged the defendant’s “Popcorn Indiana” brand after finding out that the corn, although grown in Indiana, is not popped in Indiana.

Locations and geographic claims on packaging.

While many decisions analyzed the precise geographic origin claim — often distinguishing between geographic-themed products (Hawaiian punch or New England clam chowder) and specific representations of origin (such as by including a map or invitation to visit a certain locale) — we do not have to make it even that far to sound the buzzer on this underdog story.

The district court dismissed the consumer protection and fraud-based claims in the complaint because the plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead scienter, which means "a person's knowledge or intent to commit a wrongful act".

The plaintiff’s conclusory allegations about the manufacturer’s alleged misrepresentations and general awareness that consumers preferred foods with a connection to a place known for those foods, reasoned the court, did not allege facts showing an intent to defraud consumers.

This report is from an Alston & Bird debriefing for the case of Gibson v. Eagle Family Foods Group LLC, No. 1:22-cv-02147 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 29, 2023). It was selected by Packaging Digest with permission from the international law firm. This article and others can be seen in the recently published 14-page Food & Beverage Digest October 2023 online issue that features briefs on New Lawsuits Filed, Motions to Dismiss, Class Certification, Appeals, and Voluntary Dismissals.

About the Author(s)

Alston & Bird

Alston & Bird

Alston & Bird is an international law firm that practice across a wide range of industries—locally, nationally, and globally. It employs more than  800 lawyers in 13 offices throughout the United States, Europe, the UK, and Asia. The firm provides legal services to both domestic and international clients who conduct business worldwide. These services include issues related to corporate & finance, intellectual property, litigation, tax, regulatory and specialty.

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