Ever open a box of chocolate and wonder, “Dude, where’s all my candy?” Robert Bratton from Columbia, Missouri did, and he got so annoyed about the empty space in his Reese’s Pieces and Whoppers boxes, he filed a class-action lawsuit against The Hershey Company.
According to the suit, “under-filling boxes of candy serves no purpose other than to manipulate and deceive consumers.”
Hershey claims its not deceiving anyone because the weight and number of pieces of candy per serving is listed on the front of the box (the total number of servings is on the back of the box).
“Consumers are well aware of the fact that substantially all commercial packaging contains some empty space.”
But how much empty space is too much empty space?
Bratton alleges that the boxes are “substantially empty.” According to the court documents, Whoppers boxes are under-filled by 41% and Reese’s Pieces is under-filled by 29%. Bratton argues that nothing prevents Hershey from placing more candy in the boxes, or reducing the size of the boxes.
Bratton thinks he “was misled to believe that he was purchasing more product than was actually received.”
Hershey’s claims that “it is common knowledge” that “substantially all packaged goods include some amount of empty or ‘head’ space,” which is necessary for efficient manufacturing and distribution. A reasonable consumer, upon picking up the Reese’s Pieces or Whoppers container, would instantly realize that it is not filled to the brim: with each movement of the package, its contents noticeably and audibly rattle.”
Hershey tried to get the case dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey said not so fast. According to court documents, Judge Laughrey found that Bratton had met the legal requirement to go forward.
“The Court cannot conclude as a matter of law at this stage of the litigation that the packaging is not misleading.”
If Bratton wins his case, it could send a strong message to all the food manufacturers that for no practical reason leave the box or bag half empty.
Feature image courtesy of Allegra on Flickr@Creative Commons