Poppi's Fizz Goes Flat: Lawsuit Claims Soda Falls Short on Gut Health Promises

cans of poppi soda

Class Action Lawsuit Claims Minimal Prebiotics, Potential Negative Effects

Popular prebiotic soda brand Poppi is facing a class action lawsuit that fizzles out its health claims. San Francisco resident Kristin Cobbs brought the suit, alleging Poppi misled consumers by touting its drinks as gut-healthy despite containing minimal prebiotics and potentially even having negative health consequences at higher doses.

From Farmers' Markets to Super Bowl Stardom: A Brand Built on Gut Health

Founded in 2016, Poppi rose to fame for its apple cider vinegar-infused sodas marketed as a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. From humble beginnings at farmers' markets, its popularity skyrocketed in 2018 after a Shark Tank appearance. Following a rebranding, Poppi secured a spot in Whole Foods Market, culminating in a triumphant Super Bowl ad in 2024 that declared them "the future of soda."

By 2024, Poppi's sales soared past $100 million, capturing a significant 19% market share and even surpassing Coke.

Central to this success were claims like "Be Gut Happy" and "For a Healthy Gut," emphasizing prebiotics – a type of dietary fiber believed to nourish gut bacteria. However, Cobbs' lawsuit contends these claims are misleading.

Cobbs argues that Poppi's marketing led her to believe the drinks would promote gut health, influencing her purchasing decision and willingness to pay a premium price. The lawsuit highlights that if she had known the prebiotic content was negligible, she wouldn't have bought them.

The Science Behind the Fizzle: Minimal Prebiotics, Questionable Benefits

Poppi's marketing heavily relies on the notion of prebiotics, which are fibers known to stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Agave inulin, a type of fiber in Poppi, is promoted as a prebiotic. However, Cobbs' lawsuit challenges this assertion, revealing that each can contains only 2 grams of prebiotic fiber, significantly lower than the amounts demonstrated to be effective in studies.

For instance, a 2019 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that a daily intake of at least 10 grams of prebiotics was necessary to observe positive changes in gut bacteria. Achieving any potential benefit from Poppi would require an unrealistic consumption rate.

What are Prebiotics?

Poppi's success hinges on preserving the flavor and sweetness of traditional sodas while claiming to be "gut healthy" due to its inclusion of "prebiotics"—a specific type of dietary fiber found in foods like bananas and whole grains. 

Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, known as probiotics, aiding digestion and immune regulation. Poppi claims to be a prebiotic soda due to its agave inulin - a so-called prebiotic - content. However, with only two grams of prebiotic fiber per can, the drink falls short of delivering meaningful gut health benefits, the lawsuit states.

“Despite Poppi’s ‘prebiotic’ marketing claims, which assure consumers, on the can, that they can ‘Be Gut Happy [and] Be Gut Healthy,’ as one nutritionist bluntly explained: the Products ‘are basically sugared water.’” 

Beyond Hype: Potential Gut Grenades

The lawsuit goes beyond the ineffectiveness of Poppi's prebiotic content. It raises concerns about the potential downsides of excessive inulin consumption

Studies suggest that high doses (over 5 grams per day) can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially for individuals with existing digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Additionally, research cited in a 2023 Weill Cornell Medicine article suggests that inulin could disrupt the gut microbiome and even induce inflammation at high intake levels.

“Because ordinary consumers do not have expertise in pre- and probiotic science, they purchase, and continue to purchase, Defendant’s Products under the erroneous but reasonable belief that the Products are providing prebiotic gut benefits due to Poppi’s false and misleading Prebiotic Representations,” the complaint says.

Cobbs' lawsuit seeks to represent everyone who bought Poppi sodas nationwide, believing they were getting a gut-healthy drink. She argues consumers were misled and seeks compensation for them. Additionally, Cobbs wants the court to force Poppi to change its marketing claims (an injunction).

To achieve this, Cobbs is filing on behalf of herself and all similar consumers across the US (a nationwide Class) as well as a separate California Subclass. She's requesting three types of relief: restitution (repayment for damages), equitable monetary relief (financial compensation determined by the court), and injunctive relief (a court order forcing Poppi to change its marketing). Finally, Cobbs demands a jury trial.

Case Details

  • Lawsuit: Cobbs v. VNGR Beverage, LLC d/b/a Poppi
  • Case Number: 3:24-cv-03229
  • Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Plaintiffs' Attorneys

  • L. Timothy Fisher and Joshua B. Glatt (Bursor & Fisher, P.A.)
  • Adrian Gucovschi and Benjamin Rozenshteyn (Gucovschi Rozenshteyn, PLLC)



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