Empty boxes, empty promises: Lawsuits claim candy containers are underfilled

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

We try to push the Raisinets as a movie snack on the children, as it at least has some nutritional value underneath all that chocolate. After we plunk down our hard-earned $3.50 or so per box, we often hear the complaint that the box isn’t even filled all the way. Frankly, we just thought this was just whiny people being whiny, but now, it looks like they may be on to something.

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According to the Lexis news service Law 360, this week a Missouri federal judge denied Nestle Inc.’s motion to dismiss a class action over Raisinets boxes that “allegedly contain almost as much air as candy.” Plaintiff Lahonee Hawkins bought a Raisinets pack at a Rolla, Missouri, Walgreens that she said was underfilled.

Nestle tried and failed to pull out the “maraca argument” saying that a consumer “upon picking up the Raisonets [sic] container, would instantly realize that it is not filled to the brim: with each movement of the package, its contents noticeably and audibly [emit a] ‘maraca-like rattle.’”

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The federal judge, who we’re kind of loving, immediately shot that down: “Whether a reasonable consumer would notice rattling in the 13-second course of making the purchasing decision and what a consumer would make of it, let alone instantly conclude the [boxes] are as much as 45 percent slack-filled, are questions of fact.” He added that “the maraca argument was irrelevant because it was not made or mentioned in the complaint.”

Turns out Nestle isn’t even the only candy company in this particular hot seat this week. Another class action suit has been filed against the makers of Werther’s caramels. Plaintiff Jeffrey Kpakpoe-Awei “alleged Storck USA LP fills the 2.75-ounce bags of caramels with unnecessary empty space that misrepresents the amount of chews that are actually in the container.” He claims to have purchased a bag of the sugar-free caramels in December that was less than 40 percent full. The maraca defense won’t work here either, as “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has previously determined that consumers shouldn’t be expected to shake or otherwise manipulate the packaging of a product to determine its contents, the complaint said.” We swear we didn’t even know that was a thing; we hardly ever shake our food before buying it.

Sadly, in this age of shrinking packaging and rising prices, we’re hardly surprised that some candy manufacturers may be trying to get us to pay more for actual air, but we will definitely be interested in seeing how these lawsuits turn out. An official product-to-air ratio limit seems like a necessary guideline.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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DISCUSSION

Not going to comment on the merits of the lawsuit, but the last time I bought a $4.00 box of chocolate covered raisins at the movie theater (AMC Theaters, Sunmaid brand shown here) I received a box that was approximately eight inches long which contained a transparent plastic bag of raisins that was approximately a third the size of the actual box. I mean, it was big enough to cover that little window and that’s about it. It was amazingly ridiculous and I was so pissed; not only was the price some ol’ bullshit but they screwed you even more by deftly tricking you into thinking you were getting far more than what you actually got. No, I did not sue, but since then I’ve done what all smart people do, which is to buy my candy at Kroger for $1 and sneak it in. However, as my AMC offers self-serve free refills on soda I’ve made it up (and then some!) by purchasing, saving and continuing to re-use one large soda cup across multiple movies. I have learned that you can reuse a standard paper AMC cup at about eight movies before it starts to deform and degrade to the point where it leaks, thereby reducing the price of said soda to a very reasonable 70-something cents per 32 oz serving, instead of the approximately $50+I would have spent had I bought a new soda each viewing. It’s the little things.