Sprouting Controversy: Lawsuit Claims Panera Misleads Customers on Sprouted Grain Bagel Ingredients

Panera sued over alleged misleading advertising of sprouted grain bread.

Bakery Chain Accused of Deceptive Marketing in Class Action Lawsuit

Bakery and cafe giant Panera is facing heat from customers who say the bread maker is using “false and deceptive practices” selling its Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat. 

In a new lawsuit, a customer is accusing the company of marketing the bagel in a way that sounds like sprouted grains are the primary or exclusive source of grain. However, they say, the bagels are mostly made with common and less healthy, non-sprouted grains, and only contain trace amounts of sprouted grains.

Customer says Panera's bagel label misrepresents sprouted grain content

Lakema Tate filed the proposed class action lawsuit against the company, accusing it of using deceptive business practices to sell the bagels. “Regrettably, Panera has engaged in misleading and deceitful advertising practices to drive up sales and enhance profits from the Product, all to the detriment of unknowing consumers,” the lawsuit reads.

Tate said they paid a premium price for the bagels, believing they were made with sprouted grains, and had they known the bagels consisted of “conventional, non-sprouted grains, and only trace amounts of sprouted grains” they wouldn’t have bought them or would have paid much less. 

Sprouted grains, Tate said, offer a “more desirable quality” compared to conventional nonsprouted grains. “As the term suggests, sprouted grains undergo a germination process before being incorporated into bread and other food products,” the lawsuit states, adding there are significant health benefits because of that.

Growing consumer trend towards healthier options

Increasingly, consumers are leaning towards buying natural products that promote healthier, more environmentally friendly, and ethically sound lifestyles. As the Food Institute put it regarding organic food, what was once a niche product category has now become a thriving sector.

In 2022, organic food sales in the United States broke through $60 billion for the first time, the Organic Institute found, and total organic sales – including organic non-food products – were a record $67.6 billion. While price remains a barrier for many, it is predicted the sector will continue to grow as consumer concerns around health, sustainability, and ethical consumption do too. 

Regardless of what you think about health claims associated with foods, brands making false claims about their products is always a bad thing and according to the National Institute of Health that is a concerning growing trend. Of course, brands use labels to be eye-catching and appealing to consumers, but they have a core responsibility to tell the truth. 

Sentient Media reports how food labels often use carefully crafted language to attract and mislead consumers as a sales tactic. During the Covid-19 pandemic, shoppers became more interested in maintaining a healthy diet, research shows, and brands are trying to reflect that trend in their labeling — some falsey.  Tate alleges Panera’s false marketing made consumers “suffer economic injury” and they are entitled to damages for that.

Holding food companies accountable for misleading labels

Because of the increasing awareness of the money to be made from health conscious consumers, a number of companies are trying to tap into the market. But not all are doing it truthfully, according to a range of consumer class action lawsuits. 

Kraft Mac & Cheese was recently hit with a proposed class action lawsuit accusing it of making false claims on its Original Flavor, Thick ‘n Creamy and Three Cheese varieties of mac & cheese, which all say “No Artificial Flavors, Preservatives, or Dyes” on the box, but, according to the lawsuit, all contain the synthetic preservative citric acid.  

Ricola is another company facing scrutiny from consumers about its product labeling. It was hit with a new lawsuit that alleges the company misled customers about the origins of the drops' herbal flavors, which say they are from herbal hotspot the Swiss Alps, but are actually from India.

Panera faces scrutiny over previous lawsuits

It’s also not Panera’s first time facing up to a judge. This year, it agreed to pay $2 million to settle a class action lawsuit in which consumers accused it of deceiving customers about the price of delivery orders. It is also facing multiple lawsuits in regards to the levels of caffeine in its Charge Lemonade, which consumers say has led to the death of two customers. 

In this lawsuit, Tate wants to represent California consumers and is suing for violations of the state’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law.

The plaintiff and proposed class are represented by David A. Baldwin of Law Office Of David Baldwin.

The Panera bagel false advertising class action lawsuit is Tate v. Panera, LLC et al, Case No.  2:24-cv-03007, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.