Splenda fights back
McNeil Nutritionals, the table-top supplier of this increasingly
popular sweetener, takes the US sugar industry to court.
The US firm is accusing the sugar association, its members, and PR firm Qorvis Communications behind the industry group, of 'making false and misleading claims about the Splenda brand.'
The moves follow swiftly on from a lawsuit filed by the sugar association against McNeil Nutritionals at the end of last year.
The sugar group accused McNeil of "deceptive and/or misleading representations", made by the sweetener firm in "advertisements and marketing terminology" to consumers.
Fighting back, the marketer of the no calorie sweetener said this week: "The Sugar association and other defendants have knowingly and intentionally made false claims about the Splenda Brand that are baseless and that are designed to injure its reputation and goodwill."
McNeil Nutritionals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, asserts that sucralose starts off as pure cane sugar, and is then chemically altered in the manufacturing process to create a new compound with zero calories, and 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Sucralose was developed jointly by McNeil Nutritionals and sugar giant Tate & Lyle. The British firm became the sole manufacturer of Splenda earlier this year after reaching an agreement with McNeil Nutritionals, that markets the table-top sweetener.
The false-advertising lawsuit filed by the sugar association against McNeil in California in December, does not target Tate & Lyle.
"From our perspective, whatever the outcome of the litigation, sucralose will still be made from sugar, and still taste like sugar," a spokesperson at Tate and Lyle told FoodNavigator.com in December.
In November Merisant, the US maker of tabletop sweetener Equal and NutraSweet and a competitor to Splenda, alleged in a separate lawsuit that the product's marketing slogan, "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar," had mislead consumers into thinking the artificial sweetener was "natural."
Sales for Splenda, are currently soaring and the battle of lawsuits may not be palpable in terms of sales loss.
According to Datamonitor, the Splenda ingredient was used in some 1,436 new products worldwide in 2004, up from 573 in 2003 and 35 in 1999.
Indeed, this week the number one global soft drinks supplier Coca-Cola announced the launch of a new diet coke in its range, sweetened with Splenda and complete with the ingredient brand logo on the packaging.
The move suggests increasing consumer brand awareness for Splenda, as it perches on the supermarket shelf alongside Coca-Cola's flagship diet coke, sweetened with NutraSweet.