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Soured relationship: no love lost between yogurt makers

Do you like yogurt?

If so, would you like it as much if you even remotely suspected that chemicals you were ingesting while eating it were also used to exterminate insects or to keep water clean in swimming pools?

Didn't think so.

Neither, obviously, did business principals at the headquarters of Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani, who until recently were imparting that information to consumers via a widespread advertising campaign impugning the products of rivals General Mills and Dannon.

Those entities filed lawsuits against Chobani alleging unfair competition through misleading advertising.

And they just won.

A federal judge issued an injunction late last month ordering Chobani to cease its ad campaign, given a lack of evidence justifying its assertions regarding the bug- and pool-related chemical associations.

The ads were unquestionably stark and provocative. In one instance, for example, Chobani made a reference to potassium sorbate, followed by images of an unhappy customer throwing a container of General Mills' Yoplait yogurt into a garbage can. 

"That stuff is used to kill bugs," an announcer intoned.

The judge found the ad to be disingenuous, noting in his ruling that the chemical is used in various formulations and, when added to yogurt, "is safe for human consumption." He similarly found the chemical referenced in the swimming pool context "to be safe for ordinary consumption."

Campaigns in every sphere of commercial activity are always looking for a competitive edge, of course, and will employ business strategies that promote a market advantage at the expense of rivals.

Such strategies must be lawful, though. When they aren't, an injured third party can enlist the aid of an experienced business litigator to pursue legal relief, which can include an injunctive demand, money damages and other remedies that a court might deem appropriate.

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