When you go to Starbucks (or any other similar establishment), do you expect that things are going to be as “real” and “fresh” as their marketing claims to be? While most of us would say no, some disgruntled customers have had enough of the lies. One customer from New York has decided to take Starbucks to court over the lack of acai in their strawberry acai refresher drink. She has filed a lawsuit against them and is now fighting for justice against the corporation.
A Quest for Justice: Joan Kominis vs Starbucks
In August 2022, Joan Kominis, a resident of Queens, New York, filed a complaint against Starbucks after discovering that the popular Strawberry Acai Lemonade Refresher contained no actual acai. This revelation shook her confidence in the beverage giant and led her to initiate legal action. She says that she assumed the fruit would be present in the drink, considering it is in the name. What’s more, she says that had she known there was no acai in the beverage, she would never have paid so much for the drink. Joined by co-plaintiff Jason McAllister from California, Kominis sought damages in excess of $5 million, claiming that Starbucks had deceived consumers by misrepresenting the ingredients of several of their Refreshers. (1)
According to court documents filed in the southern district of New York, Starbucks was accused of intentionally misleading customers by falsely advertising the ingredients of its Refreshers. The complaint stated, “Unbeknownst to consumers, the Mango Dragon Fruit and Mango Dragon Fruit Lemonade Refreshers contain no mango, the Pineapple Passionfruit and Pineapple Passion Fruit Lemonade Refreshers contain no passionfruit, and the Strawberry Açaí and Strawberry Açaí Lemonade Refreshers contain no açaí.”
Kominis and McAllister alleged that Starbucks deliberately concealed the absence of these key ingredients, deceiving unsuspecting customers who sought the advertised flavors. The lawsuit aimed to hold Starbucks accountable for its alleged false marketing and sought substantial damages for the deceptive practices. They claim that other Starbucks beverages do contain what they advertise, such as their hot chocolate, which contains cocoa; matcha lattes, which contain matcha; and honey mint tea, which contains honey and mint. There is no indication that their refresher beverages wouldn’t adhere to the same standards.
In response to the lawsuit, Starbucks promptly issued a statement dismissing the allegations as “inaccurate” and “without merit.” The company defended its products, ensuring they were accurately labeled and made with high-quality ingredients. Starbucks refuted the notion that their Refreshers were falsely marketed and vowed to defend themselves in court vigorously. According to Starbucks, the labeling indicates the present flavors, not the ingredients themselves. US District Judge John Cronan, however, disagrees. (2)
“Nothing before the Court indicates that ‘mango,’ ‘passionfruit,’ and ‘açaí’ are terms that typically are understood to represent a flavour without also representing that ingredient.” the judge wrote in his ruling.
The Impact and Significance
The case filed by Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister against Starbucks raises important questions about companies’ responsibility to provide consumers accurate product information. In an era where transparency and consumer trust are paramount, this lawsuit underscores the potential consequences faced by companies that fall short in meeting these expectations.
If the allegations against Starbucks are proven true, it could impact the trust and loyalty of Starbucks’ customer base. With the rise of social media and the ability for information to travel quickly, negative publicity surrounding such developments can significantly impact a company’s reputation. As such, this case has implications for Starbucks and other major corporations in the food and beverage industry.
The Bottom Line
Joan Kominis’ decision to file a complaint against Starbucks for false advertising in their Refreshers demonstrates her determination to seek justice for herself and other consumers who may have been misled. Her pursuit of accountability brings to light the importance of accurate product labeling in maintaining trust and confidence in the marketplace.
While Starbucks has denied the allegations, the legal battle will determine whether the claims have merit and whether Starbucks will be held accountable for their alleged actions. As the case progresses, it will be of great interest to not only Kominis and McAllister but also consumers and companies alike who value truthfulness and transparency as core tenets of business ethics.
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- ” Starbucks faces lawsuit as customers claim refreshers contain no fruit.” Independent. Brittany Miller. September 21, 2023.
- “Starbucks to face lawsuit alleging its Refresher fruit drinks are missing fruit.” Today. Joseph Lamour. September 20, 2023.