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Miyoko’s Creamery has won its first amendment lawsuit to use dairy terms on its vegan butter product. The judge handling the case has blocked the move by the State of California to prevent the leading plant-based dairy brand from using terms like “butter”, “lactose-free” and “cruelty-free” on its vegan butter alternatives.
Californian vegan dairy pioneer Miyoko’s has won a landmark court case over the use of dairy terms on its plant-based butter. The case first emerged in 2020, when the brand sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for infringing on its right to free speech in its attempt to ban the use of dairy-related words and imagery on the packaging of Miyoko’s products.
Miyoko’s was then granted a preliminary injunction last year, allowing the brand to continue labeling its products using its existing terms including “cruelty-free” and its mission statement of “Revolutionizing Dairy with Plants.” Now, on August 11, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has concluded that Miyoko’s can permanently continue to use dairy terms on its labeling.
Vegan butter wins
According to the ruling, the CDFA can no longer ban Miyoko’s from using terms like “butter” and “lactose-free”, nor can they stop the brand from using the statement “Revolutionizing Dairy with Plants”. The judge disagreed with the CDFA’s argument that such statements are misleading or untruthful because it leaves consumers confused that it is a “dairy food”.
Food is ever-evolving, and so too, should language to reflect how people actually use speech to describe the foods they eat.Miyoko Shinner, Founder, Miyoko’s Creamery
In a statement after the legal victory, Miyoko’s Creamery wrote: “Today, in August of 2021, we won! Miyoko’s vegan butter is officially butter in the eyes of the law!”
“We are so thrilled by this ruling and what it means for the future of food. Thank you to the Animal Legal Defense Fund for representing the interests of the animals, the vegan community, and all of us here at Miyoko’s.”
Founder Miyoko Schinner added: “Food is ever-evolving, and so too, should language to reflect how people actually use speech to describe the foods they eat. We are extremely pleased by this ruling and believe that it will help set a precedent for the future of food.”
Plant-based dairy labeling wars
Driven by environmental, ethical and health concerns, brands like Miyoko’s have surged in popularity with mainstream shoppers, prompting an influx of investment into the fast-growing brand in a recent $52 million round. Legal battles over the use of dairy terms on plant-based products are largely seen as a last-ditch effort from the big dairy industry to push back against declining sales.
“For years, the dairy industry has taken the position that terms like “cultured vegan butter” and “plant-based cheese” on plant-based dairy products confuses consumers, without any evidence to support that claim,” wrote the Animal Legal Defense Fund in a statement.
The fact that animal-milk producers fear plant-based competition does not give state agencies the authority to restrict one industry in order to help another.Stephen Wells, Executive Director, CDFA
“Attempts to prevent plant-based dairy companies from using descriptive terms is nothing more than animal-industry protectionism in response to shifting consumer preferences.”
Commenting on Miyoko’s win, ALDF executive director Stephen Wells said: “The CDFA’s attempt to censor Miyoko’s from accurately describing its products and providing context for their use is a blatant example of agency capture.”
“The fact that animal-milk producers fear plant-based competition does not give state agencies the authority to restrict one industry in order to help another,” Wells added.
All images courtesy of Miyoko’s Creamery.