Trying to get more protein? Class-action suits question protein-product content claims

Consumer protection

Every January, many Americans make health-related New Year’s resolutions and embark on an effort to eat better, lose weight, and get fit after the excesses of the holiday season. A plethora of products and services — ranging from gym memberships to how-to books to diet supplements — caters to this lucrative market.

Savvy consumers should take health-related product claims with a grain of salt, but some brands have come under fire recently for allegedly offering misleading information about their products. Protein-related brands, in particular, have been accused in several cases of falsely advertising the amount of protein content that is actually contained in their products.

Protein cookie brand Lenny & Larry’s agreed to a settlement last month to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that the nutritional content of Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie may not be as complete as advertised.

The lawsuit accused the company of “grossly” inflating the protein content of its cookies. Lenny & Larry’s advertised the Complete Cookie as containing 16 grams of protein, while the suit said the actual protein content was 4 to 9 grams per cookie. Lenny & Larry’s denies the allegations and says it will not change its advertising. The company entered into the settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

Under the settlement, consumers who bought packages of The Complete Cookie or other Lenny & Larry’s baked goods before Mar. 19, 2019, may be eligible to receive up to $50 in cash or up to $30 in free products. Lenny & Larry’s will also cover court costs and attorneys’ fees and pay each plaintiff named in the suit $1,500.

Lenny & Larry’s, established in 1993, was a pioneer in protein cookies. The company markets its products as “quality baked goods that not only taste great, but also contain protein and fiber.” Larry & Lenny’s Complete Cookie includes wheat gluten, pea protein and rice protein, among other ingredients.

Another protein-related class-action suit was settled earlier this fall between consumers and Premier Nutrition Corporation, which makes Power Bar. Plaintiff Joseph Gregorio alleged that although the company’s protein shakes were advertised as having 30 grams of protein, they contain only between 26.9 and 28.3 grams of protein.

The terms of the settlement gave Gregorio $5,000 for his role as lead plaintiff. Other consumers can receive up to $40 in cash each.

The settlement also requires Premier Nutrition Group to re-evaluate its protein shake formula and manufacturing as well as to work with manufacturers to make sure the protein content of the shakes is as close as possible to what is advertised.

And in yet another case that has yet to be resolved, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Mars Wrigley Confectionery US LLC last spring, accusing the company of failing to comply with legal requirements for testing methodologies and misrepresenting the protein content and daily reference values of its Snickers Protein Bars. The suit accuses the defendant of knowing that it is miscalculating the amount of protein in its Snickers Protein Bars and that this is misleading to consumers.