Lawsuit against Walmart targets authenticity of its private brand ‘craft beer’
In a case that suggests the need for greater transparency in the realm of private label, a class action lawsuit targets Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart for allegedly selling fake private brand craft beer made by a nonexistent brewery.
Filed on Feb. 10 by Matthew Adam of Cincinnati “and all others similarly situated,” the suit claims that Walmart “manufactured, marketed and/or sold” its Cats Away IPA, After Party Pale Ale, Round Midnight Belgian White, and Red Flag Amber own-brand beers as “craft beers” when they actually are mass-produced and don’t conform to established definitions of the term.
The lawsuit notes that several dictionaries define craft beer as specialty beer produced in limited quantities by small independent breweries. In addition, the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers, defines “craft beer” as “small, independent and traditional,” according to the filing.
The plaintiff contends that he was duped into paying an inflated price for the inauthentic beer (approximately $14 for a 12-can variety pack), that the beer line is merchandised alongside legitimate craft beer brands to mislead customers and that the product line is inferior in quality to genuine craft beers.
Walmart received much praise in the business press when it launched its craft beer line in 2016. “We want to bring craft beer to the masses,” Al Dominguez, Walmart’s senior vice president of adult beverages, told TheStreet.com at the time.
The lawsuit emphasizes that Walmart claims to collaborate with Trouble Brewing to brew its craft beer. “The trouble is, ‘Trouble Brewing’ doesn’t really exist,” according to the filing.
The lawsuit alleges that Walmart deliberately conceals the brewer’s identity, noting that “the applicant listed on filings with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is Winery Exchange Inc., which has since turned into WX Brands.” The document further points out that the “brewery address” section of the TTB filings lists Genesee Brewing’s business office in Rochester, N.Y.
“Genesee is owned by another company that brews Costa Rican lager among other industrial brands,” the lawsuit states.
The class action suit, covered initially by Consumerist.com on Feb. 13, is now attracting notice of the national press, including Fox News on Feb. 14 and USA Today on Feb. 15.
To read the entire filing, go to https://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/wmartbeer.pdf.