Merisant & McNeil reach quiet settlement in Splenda battle

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Splenda, Sweeteners, Sugar substitute, Sucralose

An intensely anticipated lawsuit regarding the misleading marketing
of sucralose product Splenda ended Friday in a quiet settlement
between the two sweetener firms Merisant and McNeil Nutritionals.

Both parties agreed to make no additional comments on the terms of the settlement agreement, which was the culmination of a three-year battle between the two companies. The long awaited court case, which began last month in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was set to determine the fate of marketing slogans used for the popular sweetener Splenda. According to Merisant, the maker of Equal and NutraSweet, McNeil Nutrtitionals and its parent company Johnson & Johnson have purposefully confused consumers over whether Splenda is natural. The firm claimed the marketing slogan for the product - 'Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar'​ - is deliberately being used to make consumers believe that the artificial sweetener contains sugar. McNeil, which is responsible for the sale of Splenda in the US, in turn refused to budge on its position that its marketing slogans "are true and in no way state or imply that Splenda (…) contains actual sugar or is 'natural'". ​After several weeks of court battles, the case finally went to jury on Friday. The confidential settlement comes as a mysterious end to a conflict hitherto kept in the public eye. Merisant had said the case was all about providing consumers with accurate information while also creating an "equal playing field"​ for manufacturers of other artificial sweeteners. "We've always been very clear that Equal is an artificial sweetener. It's about fairness in business,"​ the firm told FoodNavigator-USA.com. Last week, a similar case between European subsidiaries of Merisant and McNeil resulted in an order for the use of the advertising slogans of Splenda to be banned in France. The Commercial Court of Paris on Thursday found that claims such as "Because it comes from sugar,sucralosetastes like sugar"​ violate French consumer protection laws. The court awarded Merisant €40,000 ($54,000) in damages, and ordered McNeil to cease the advertising claims. The firm now has 30 days to amend all Splenda packaging. In addition, the Court prohibited the distribution of any products under the trademark Splenda with unchanged packaging after a period of four months. McNeil will also be facing another case for its marketing of Splenda in the US, brought by the Sugar Association and due to go to trial in November. The case follows a long-standing dispute between the company and the trade body, which also claims that the slogan used is misleading.

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