According to the complaint filed in US District Court in Indianapolis, Dunkin stopped purchasing Splenda from Heartland in April 2016.
However, the Carmel-based company alleges Dunkin employees continue to tell customers that the sweetener they provide is the American-made sucralose brand. Some Dunkin’ employees even believed Splenda goes into making some of its baked treats.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ spokesperson Justin Drake said the company was unable to comment due to pending litigation.
A sour note
Heartland claims it has received numerous complaints from customers who visited Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Customers have complained that the sweetener added to their Dunkin’ Donuts products results in a funny taste, or that they are otherwise not certain what sweetener Dunkin’ Donuts is giving them,” alleged the lawsuit.
Heartland accused Dunkin' of using packaging that’s similar to Splenda’s. Both sweeteners come in pale yellow paper packets, although the coffee and doughnut franchise’s’ packaging does indicate it is manufactured for them by Chicago-based Merisant.
Americans sweet on Splenda
Last year, Heartland purchased the Splenda brand from McNeil Nutritionals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.
Nielsen research has found that Splenda is the most popular brand of low-calorie sweeteners in the US, commanding a 32% market share. US net trade sales are expected to be around $163m in 2016.
Heartland has requested an injunction to stop Dunkin' from representing that it uses Splenda products.
The 22-page complaint drafted by Indianapolis law firm Taft, Stettnius & Hollister alleged Dunkin' is "irreparably damaging the value of Heartland’s iconic Splenda trademark and other marks."
The company is asking for an undisclosed amount for damages.