Starbucks Will Go To Court Over Missing Fruit In Refreshers

Starbucks is facing significant criticism in the form of a lawsuit. The Seattle-based coffee chain, famous for popularizing flavored lattes and known for its fruity Refresher line, finds itself in hot — or rather, icy — water. Disappointingly for Starbucks fans, many of the Starbucks Refreshers do not actually contain the primary fruit advertised in the drink's name.

The lawsuit was filed by Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister in August 2022, accusing the company of false advertising under consumer protection laws. According to Reuters, drinks like the Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai, and Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refreshers lack the mango, passion fruit, or açai they purportedly contain. This extends to the three frozen lemonade Refreshers that Starbucks has added to its permanent menu, as these drinks blend lemonade and ice with the same base flavors as the classic Refreshers.

Kominis purchased the Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refresher that sparked the lawsuit. While the drink did contain real strawberries, it had no actual açai. The complaint alleges that a mix of "water, grape juice concentrate[,] and sugar" was used instead to mimic the flavor.

How is Starbucks reacting to the lawsuit?

District Judge John Cronan in Manhattan, New York, is overseeing the case. Starbucks attempted to argue that the fruits mentioned in the names of the Refreshers were intended merely to describe the flavor, not to specify the ingredients. However, Judge Cronan rejected this argument, stating that unlike vanilla, "nothing before the court indicates that 'mango,' 'passionfruit,' and 'açaí' are terms that typically are understood to represent a flavor without also representing that ingredient," (according to Reuters). Starbucks sought to have the 11 claims against it dismissed, but Judge Cronan upheld all but two, dismissing the claim that Starbucks intentionally set out to mislead customers.

For its part, Starbucks has not admitted to any wrongdoing. In a statement shared with Food Republic, the company said, "The allegations in the complaint are inaccurate and without merit. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims."