A group of bakers has filed a class-action suit against Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, claiming its white chocolate chips are not actually white chocolate, but are instead made with inferior hydrogenated oils.
The complaint, filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, alleges that the Premier White Morsels sold by Nestlé skimp on cocoa butter and replace it with cheaper oils.
“Nestle, a company known for its chocolate, sells fake white chocolate baking chips and tries to market them as white chocolate,” the complaint reads.
The lead plaintiffs, Steven Prescott and Linda Cheslow, seek a ruling forcing Nestlé to stop labeling and advertising the product as “white chocolate,” as well as restitution on unfair competition, false advertising and violation of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
Prescott and Cheslow claim the morsels sold by Nestlé don’t melt like real white chocolate, and that many bakers like them have lost money creating inferior desserts with them.
The Premier White Morsels packaging doesn’t explicitly identify the product as white chocolate, but as “creamy, vanilla-flavored morsels.” The suit argues, though, that positioning them alongside Nestlé’s other Morsels products, which do contain chocolate, gives the false impression that the Premier White Morsels are authentic white chocolate.
“Nestlé is aware that reasonable consumers are misled into believing the product contains white chocolate when it actually contains fake white chocolate,” the filing reads, “but has thus far refused to make any labeling and advertising changes to dispel the consumer deception.”
Cheslow and Prescott’s complaint collects examples of customer feedback posted on Nestlé’s website:
“These don’t have chocolate in them and don’t taste like white chocolate,” one reviewer wrote. “There’s nothing premium about this product at all.
Another complained the morsels melted slower than authentic white chocolate “it just ended up as one big clump.”
“I wish the label included the word ‘imitation’ or ‘chocolate flavored’ like the fake semisweet morsels do,” another wrote. “Then wouldn’t have expected it to melt like white chocolate. [I] threw it out after trying to melt it for peppermint bark. added whipping cream in an attempt to save the dry crumbles and it turned to creamy rubber. Not spreadable.”
In a statement to Newsweek, a Nestlé spokesperson called the suit “baseless.”
“The label on our Toll House Premier White Morsels accurately describes the product, complies with FDA regulations, and provides consumers with all of the information necessary to help them make an informed purchasing decision.”
Technically, white chocolate isn’t really chocolate, as it contain cocoa powder—it’s made by separating out the dark solids from the cocoa bean, leaving behind the fatty cocoa butter, which is mixed with sugar and milk solids. (People who are allergic to chocolate can often eat white chocolate without experiencing any distress.) FDA regulations require products advertised as white chocolate contain at minimum 20 percent cocoa butter.
It’s high season for chocolate company lawsuits: In July, a Virginia man sued Godiva Chocolatier for $74,000 after he purchased a box of its chocolates and discovered they were made in Reading, Pennsylvania, and not Belgium.
Godiva argued “Belgian chocolate” is an element of its branding, not a statement of the product’s origin.