Update: Trader Joe's has this to say, "It is always our intention to ensure our labeling accurately represents our products, so our customers can make informed choices about what they are buying. If it is ever brought to our attention that the labeling on a product is confusing or misleading to customers, we do not hesitate to look into the matter and determine whether changes need to be made. In this case we feel the labeling of our 12 Grain Crackers is accurate."
Trader Joe's is currently facing a class action lawsuit for an item with misleading labeling.
The popular grocery store chain that's celebrated for its vast selection of packaged goods received some heat on August 14 from Plaintiff Kalman Rosenfeld who filed the lawsuit, saying the name "12 Grain Mini Snack Crackers" suggests the product is largely made of a blend of grains, but the nutritional label says otherwise. The top ingredient listed is actually the most standard of them all: refined white flour.
It's true, the first ingredient on the nutrition label (which is indicative of being the most predominant ingredient) is enriched flour, which Trader Joe's packaging fails to mention. The amount of 12-grain blend included in the crackers is marginal in comparison with the amount of white flour used.
"The product's 'common or usual name' does not include the percentage of the characterizing 12-grain blend ingredient, even though the proportion of this ingredient 'has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance or when the labeling or the appearance of the food may otherwise create an erroneous impression that' more of the 12-grain blend is present in an amount greater than is actually the case," as noted in the 12-page lawsuit.
Deceptive packaging is a big deal, especially in a case such as this one because the brand has the luxury of selling it at a higher price in comparison with what they would get for a traditional box of crackers that are also primarily made with enriched flour. The 12-grain crackers currently go for about $2.89 before tax, which is comparatively higher than similar products at TJ's that are more transparent in its packaging.
"The name '12 Grain Mini Snack Crackers' is misleading because it suggests and identifies one of the ingredients — the 12-grain blend — yet fails to disclose another more predominant ingredient, like refined white flour," as stated in the lawsuit.
Ultimately, it's disappointing to see a chain as beloved as Trader Joe's duping consumers into thinking they're buying a higher-end, nutrient-dense cracker. As the complaint reads, "The representations took advantage of consumers' cognitive shortcuts made at the point-of-sale and their trust in defendant, a well-known and respected brand or entity in this sector."
Trader Joe's has truly had its moments this summer, especially after the brand walked back on its decision to remove the stereotypes prevalent in its international food lines.
For more, check out 17 Foods You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe's.