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June 8, 2020

Where’s the Honey in Honey Bunches of Oats?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:43 am

Honey Bunches of OatsFor years, we’ve all seen the commercials for Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal where the female assembly line worker waxes poetic about her crispy crunchy bunches.

Last year, a health-conscious California consumer bought a box of this cereal thinking that honey would be a more healthy sweetener to have rather than sugar or corn syrup. Soon thereafter he learned (probably from a class action lawyer rather than a nutritionist) that the product in fact had almost no honey.

A check of the ingredients statement on the side of the package revealed the not-so-sweet truth.


Honey Bunches of Oats Ingredients

There are three other sweeteners in the product — sugar, corn syrup and molasses — all of which are in greater amounts than any honey. In fact, there was more salt in the cereal than honey. (Barley malt extract is also a sweetener, incidentally.)

So our consumer sued Post claiming false advertising and misrepresentation. He believed the packaging conveyed the impression that honey was either the only sweetener or certainly a significant one in the product.

Post argued among other things that no reasonable consumer would understand that the cereal’s packaging was making a claim about the amount of honey in the product. MrConsumer always loves when a company tries to assert that only stupid consumers would believe the baloney the manufacturer shows and tells them right on the package.

The company asked the judge to dismiss the case, but she sided with the consumer in her procedural decision.

In applying the reasonable consumer standard, however, the packaging must be considered in context. That is, the image of a radiating sun, the words “HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS,” and the honey dipper dripping honey occupy about two-thirds of the front of the packaging. Although the package does not make any objective representations about the amount of honey in the cereal, a reasonable consumer could see the prominent honey-related words and imagery and be deceived into thinking the cereal contained relatively less refined sugar and more honey. If so misled, the reasonable consumer is not expected to pick up the product and examine the fine print of the ingredient list. –Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, U.S. District Court

And so the case moves forward. We’ll keep you “Posted,” so to speak.

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  1. That’s why nutritionists (and, one hopes, consumer advocates) preach to every shopper over and over, “Read the ingredients!”
    Don’t EVER believe ANYTHING on the front of a food package because that’s where they are selling the product. The truth is in the ingredient list, and to a lesser degree, the Nutritional Information (they are allowed to fudge some of those numbers, too).

    Comment by Sunny — June 8, 2020 @ 8:43 am
  2. Great article. I’ve been buying some form of this product often for a few years since it goes on sale often. Figured it tasted too good to be true but thought it’s still better than eating a candy bar for desert. Guess I was wrong. Please do keep your readers posted about the class action.

    Comment by Buckley — June 8, 2020 @ 11:22 am
  3. Based on the ingredient label, “refined sugar” bunches of oats would be a more appropriate name.

    Comment by Wayne — June 8, 2020 @ 11:50 am
  4. Just one more example of big companies trying to trick us.

    Comment by hmc — June 8, 2020 @ 1:57 pm
  5. Sick of the reasonable consumer moniker implying no one is responsible for anything anymore. Stop dumbing down America everybody. A reasonable consumer reads the ingredient label if it is that important to them and doesn’t rely on pictures. Soon, our behavior will tell companies that they have to put everything relevant in pictures on the item because the reasonable consumer is too lazy and unintelligent to read anything on the box at all.

    Comment by JG — June 8, 2020 @ 3:10 pm
  6. If this is misleading, then I guess that most marketing is misleading. Words and pictures are used to make a product practically jump off the shelf and into our arms. Should that surprise us or shock us? Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think that most honorable businesses are trying to mislead their customers. That would be bad PR. They’re trying to attract us. It’s like women using makeup or men using aftershave. We all know we’re trying to enhance the underlying reality and make it more attractive. It often works initially, but it’s up to us to explore more deeply. Get to know the person. Read the label.

    Comment by WGM — June 9, 2020 @ 11:38 am
  7. WGM,

    I wish this comment section had a ‘like’ button. I so agree with your statement.

    Comment by Gert — June 9, 2020 @ 4:50 pm

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