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Local News

March 31, 2013

Chobani in flap over 'Greek' yogurt label

Chobani, one of the region’s biggest employers, has been ordered by a British judge to stop labeling its dairy product manufactured in the United States as “Greek” yogurt.

Following a seven-day trial in England, High Court Judge Michael Briggs ruled this week that Chobani has been misrepresenting its product to British consumers by using labeling that calls the product “Greek yoghurt.”

“Yoghurt” is the British spelling for the product spelled “yogurt” in the United States.

The ruling, growing out of a lawsuit brought against Chobani by its rival, Fage, only has application on commerce in the United Kingdom, and has no bearing on how Chobani labels its products in the United States. The ruling does not bar Chobani from labeling its British product “Greek style” yogurt.

Fage, which also operates a yogurt plant in Greece, launched the legal attack on Chobani after the latter company introduced its products into British supermarkets last year.

Briggs also said that Chobani’s chief communications officer, Nicki Briggs (no relation to the jurist), had given testimony that he found to be “either very ill-informed or untruthful.”

The judge scolded Nicki Briggs for the testimony after she claimed that the removal of an entry she made on Chobani’s British website, relating to why Chobani calls its yogurt “Greek,” had nothing to do with the litigation but was instead an updating of the online information.

However, the judge noted that another Chobani executive had already submitted written evidence that the web entry in question was removed specifically because of the Fage lawsuit against Chobani.

In response to the ruling, Chobani spokeswoman Lindsay Kos said in a statement: “We remain unwavering in our belief that the term ‘Greek yogurt’ describes yogurt that has been crafted using an authentic straining technique. It is this straining process, not a country of origin, which removes the excess liquid from the yogurt making it deliciously rich and creamy.”

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