The largest debate surrounding Starbucks’ Refreshers line of fruit-and-juice drinks earlier this year was a rule change mandating baristas to charge patrons an additional $1 for any Refresher ordered without water. However, a judge has just approved a case that claims six of the twelve Refreshers on Starbucks’ menu don’t truly contain the fruits that are promised — or at least alluded to — in their titles.
Plaintiffs Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister said in the case, which was initially filed in August 2022, that they had each ordered a Strawberry Aça Refresher and a Strawberry Aça Refresher, respectively, and that they were both disappointed to discover that the drinks were devoid of any true aça. Additionally, they claim that neither of the two Mango Dragonfruit-based Refreshers nor either of the two Pineapple Passionfruit-based Refreshers include any mango. The drinks instead consist of a mixture of the other fruits listed together with “water, grape juice concentrate, and sugar.”
Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that if they had realized they wouldn’t receive all the fruits indicated in the drinks’ names, they either wouldn’t have purchased them or would have “paid significantly less for them.” (Was it less? Have you ever visited a Starbucks, ma’am? The lawsuit complaint states, “These missing fruit juices are significant to customers because they are premium ingredients, and consumers prefer them above the inferior and less expensive grape juice concentrate contained in the Products.
They do admit that many Starbucks products “rightfully” live up to their titles, noting that the coffee shop’s hot chocolate actually contains cocoa, its matcha lattes are created with actual matcha, and its honey mint tea actually has both honey and mint. But the plaintiffs contend that such Refreshers are flat-out misleading Starbucks’ customers because they contain no aça, mango, or passionfruit.
Last September, Starbucks made an attempt to get this lawsuit dismissed by claiming that the titles of its Refreshers “accurately describe the flavors, as opposed to the ingredients of the products.” The business added that its baristas could provide customers with all the information on fruit if they were uncertain or had any questions. Judge John Cronan of the U.S. District Court disagreed and permitted nine of the lawsuit’s eleven claims to proceed. (He did reject two accusations; one said Starbucks was purposefully misleading its customers, and the other was for repeated unjust enrichment.)
Judge Cronin stated in his judgment, which was made public last week, “[The] Court ultimately determines that a significant portion of reasonable consumers could find it misleading.” Contrary to some instances, neither the name of the products nor their advertising expressly state if a fruit’s name refers to a flavor or an ingredient.
Over $5 million in damages are claimed by the two plaintiffs. In a statement to Reuters, Starbucks slammed their accusations as “inaccurate and without merit,” adding that the business “looked forward to defending ourselves against these claims.”
Refreshers beverages were introduced by Starbucks in 2012, and the company dubbed it a “global breakthrough beverage innovation that delivers a distinctly new take on thirst-quenching refreshment while providing a natural boost of energy from green coffee extract and real fruit juice.” The Refreshers and other cold beverages have grown to be a crucial component of Starbucks’ business; on a Q4 earnings call in November of last year, Howard Schultz, who was then the interim CEO, informed investors that cold coffee beverages made up 76% of all beverage sales in its U.S. stores.
So, if we find out that the Gingerbread Latte doesn’t actually have gingerbread man limbs in it, help us, we are going to KICK OFF.