Judge tosses claims over King’s Hawaiian rolls packaging
A logo depicting a crown slightly evocative of a pineapple alongside "Hilo, Hawaii" did not persuade a federal judge to accept claims that King's Hawaiian misleads customers into believing its rolls are actually made in Hawaii.
by Maria Dinzeo Court House News, November 9, 2021
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls haven’t been made in Hawaii for some time, but a federal judge found the company doesn’t mislead consumers about the fact.
Oakland resident Dieisha Hodges joined Roxanne Colamarino from New York in suing King’s Hawaiian Bakery West over packaging they say gives the mistaken impression that its original “Hawaiian” rolls are actually made in Hawaii, using traditional ingredients like pineapple juice and honey.
The label prominently features a three-point crown suggestive of the crown of a pineapple — the reputed “King of Fruits,” according to their class action. It also includes “Est. 1950,” and “Hilo, Hawaii,” in reference to the company’s founding. A close examination of the fine print reveals that the rolls are actually made in Torrance, California, where the company has been headquartered since 1977.
The women also accuse King’s Hawaiian of promoting its Hawaiian connection through a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float dubbed “The Aloha Spirit.”
None of this was enough to convince U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton that a reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing the rolls are made in Hawaii.
She found the packaging plainly states that the rolls are made in California and that “the mere use of a geographic reference, including a reference to the company’s historical origin, does not convey a representation about a product’s current origin.”
With regard to ingredients, Hamilton distinguished the case from Shalikar v. Asahi, where the court found consumers had plausibly alleged deception because Asahi stopped using higher quality Japanese water after it moved production to Canada.
“The production of sweet rolls is inapposite to the brewing of beer, where the location of production was highly relevant to the quality of the product — the water sources at issue make up over 90% of the end product,” Hamilton wrote.
And unlike in Peacock v. Pabst Brewing Co., where a consumer prevailed on deception claims because statements on a can of Olympia beer depicted waterfalls at the company’s original brewing site to mislead buyers into thinking the beer was still made using water from Olympia, Washington, King’s Hawaiian never claimed its rolls were made using traditional ingredients and methods.
"All references to pineapple, honey, production by 19th century Portuguese immigrants, forno and 'local kiawe wood' come from plaintiffs’ complaint, not from any public representations that plaintiffs have attributed to defendant,” Hamilton wrote. “It is inappropriate and unreasonable to infer that defendant’s sweet rolls include such allegedly traditional ingredients based solely on selective review of the product’s packaging.”
The packaging, she added, does not contain any actual images of honey or pineapples, even if the crown logo looks somewhat like a pineapple.
Hamilton dismissed the case with leave to amend. Spencer Sheehan, one of the attorneys representing the women, declined to comment Tuesday, saying he had not yet read Hamilton's decision.
Sheehan also represented Yonkers resident Robert Galinsky in a similar case against King's Hawaiian in the Southern District of New York, which was later voluntarily dismissed. He has also represented clients suing Kraft Heinz over Bagel Bites that contain no real mozzarella cheese and Kellogg over the paucity of real strawberries in its Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts.