Coca-Cola Faces Potential Class Action Involving “Margarita-Hard Seltzers”

When people think of Coca-Cola, they probably do not think first of Margaritas. However, the Topo Chico brand produced by Coca-Cola includes alcoholic beverages described as “Margarita-Hard Seltzers.” Tequila is widely recognized as a key ingredient of margaritas, and the packaging of the Margarita-Hard Seltzers contains an image of agave plants, from which tequila is made. As the ingredient list reveals, though, the Margarita-Hard Seltzers do not contain tequila.

About a week ago, an individual consumer filed a proposed class action against Coca-Cola in a federal court in New York State. The lawsuit argues that Coca-Cola deceived consumers by causing them to think that the Margarita-Hard Seltzers contain tequila when they do not. Thus, according to the plaintiff, Coca-Cola sold more of these beverages and for a higher price than they would have if consumers had known that the beverages did not contain tequila.

The complaint also points out that the use of “hard” in the context of alcohol generally suggests distilled spirits. Therefore, the name “Margarita-Hard Seltzer” implies that the beverage contains distilled spirits. This allegedly increases the expectation of consumers that the Margarita-Hard Seltzers contain tequila. While the ingredients include agave syrup, this is a sweetener from the agave plant rather than a liquor and thus not an equivalent of tequila.

The individual plaintiff in this case seeks to have the lawsuit certified as a class action, in which they would represent the interests of similarly situated consumers. They are pursuing a broad range of claims, including some based on statutes and others based on the common law. In addition to class certification, they seek several types of damages, as well as reasonable fees for the plaintiff’s attorneys and experts.

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