WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- A class action suit filed in California yesterday contends that Coca-Cola is illegally marketing its Vitaminwater line as healthy, and has in the process generated more than half a billion dollars in revenue.The Center for Science in the Public Interest is one party to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, that cites California consumer-protection laws and Coke's marketing of Glaceau Vitaminwater. The "defendant's advertising and marketing campaigns as well as its labeling of Vitaminwater deceptively promote VitaminWater as a healthy alternative to soft drinks," said the suit, which was filed by Reese Richman, a New York law firm. "Vitaminwater is not a healthy beverage. Rather it is sugar water -- just like soft drinks -- with a few added vitamins," it further reads. The suit cites the labeling of Vitaminwater with flavors such as "defense," "rescue," "energy" and "multi-v" as proof of its health claims. It contends that the claims allow Coke to sell a "healthy" product that contains the same level of sugar as a can of soda at a price premium to that of soft drinks. The suit asks that California consumers of Vitaminwater since 2005 be awarded actual and punitive damages. No negotiations
At a press conference today in Washington, CSPI leader Steve Gardner said the group hadn't negotiated with Coke because it hadn't had much success in negotiating on other cases with the company. "It's is really shocking that a company like Coca-Cola feels the need to market a soft drink as a vitamin pill to hide the fact it is really sugar water," he said. Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, called the suit and charges "ludicrous." "Glaceau Vitaminwater is clearly and properly labeled and shows the amount of vitamins and calories in the product," she said. "Consumers today are savvy, educated and are looking for more from their beverages than just hydration. Many people know that they are not receiving adequate nutrients from their diets, so they have turned to products like Glaceau Vitaminwater in order to help supplement what they are not receiving from the foods they eat," she said. "This is not about protecting the public interest," added the spokeswoman. "This is about increasing the readership of CSPI's increasingly irrelevant newsletter."