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Ritter Sport wins 'natural flavor' German court battle

By Oliver Nieburg+

14-Jan-2014

Ritter Sport successfully defends natural flavor claims
Ritter Sport successfully defends natural flavor claims

Ritter Sport has been granted an injunction preventing a German consumer group from claiming the chocolate firm is deceiving consumers with misleading natural flavor claims.

Stiftung Warentest had contended that Ritter’s Whole Hazelnut (Voll-Nuss ) bar contained vanilla flavoring piperonal, which was falsely labeled as a “natural flavor” because it could not be obtained without chemicals.

However, the Munich Regional Court, Landgericht München, ruled yesterday that the flavor was natural under EU regulations. It upheld an earlier interim injunction preventing Stiftung Warentest from printing its claims in a 10-page report on potential risks from chocolates containing nuts.

Stiftung Warentest to appeal

Stiftung Warentest told ConfectioneryNews that it intends to appeal the decision to the Higher Regional Court of Munich, Oberlandesgericht München, as it still believes the flavor cannot be obtained in a natural way.

Heike Van Laak, press officer for Stiftung Warentest, said that yesterday’s court decision was based on a flawed interpretation of EU flavor regulations that allowed a flavor to be called natural even when chemicals were used.

Under EC Regulation No 1334/200 8, manufacturers can only use the term natural to describe a flavor, when the flavoring components are of entirely natural origin. If a source is mentioned, at least 95 % of the flavoring should be obtained from the source referred to.

Alfred T. Ritter, owner and CEO of Ritter Sport, welcomed yesterday’s court decision and said that consumer confidence had been damaged in recent weeks by Stiftung Warentest’s actions.

Piperonal from Symrise

Ritter Sport buys piperonal from Symrise. The ingredients company had issued a guarantee bond to Ritter, assuring it that the ingredient was from a natural origin.

During the court case, Symrise said that its piperonal was derived from the Sasafrass tree, but the full process has yet to be revealed. It said that it did not manufacture the piperonal itself, but the actual maker was protected under a non-disclosure agreement.

The company said a statement: “Symrise welcomes this decision. Ritter Sport and Symrise have proven the naturalness of the flavor used. Ritter Sport labeled its Voll-Nuss product correctly.”

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