Tula Foods Inc., an Illinois-based natural food company, has filed a lawsuit in Ohio against grocery chain The Kroger Co. and flavor supplier Edgar A. Weber & Co., doing business as Weber Flavors. The suit concerns the production of Tula’s Better Whey of Life Greek yogurt line, which was introduced in 2012 and was sold in more than 400 stores throughout the Midwest, Mountain West and California.
Tula is suing Kroger for breaching the parties’ manufacturing contract by failing to produce the yogurt according to the contract’s specifications. In addition to its retail stores, Kroger owns and operates 37 manufacturing plants where it manufactures products for other companies under the name Inter-American Products. One of these products was Tula’s Better Whey of Life yogurt, according to a news release.
According to the complaint, Kroger knew it was failing to meet Tula’s production specifications, but released poor-quality, unappetizing yogurt to the market anyway. Kroger then attempted to cover up its actions by hiding the manufacturing data necessary to discover Kroger’s wrongdoing. The lawsuit further states that Kroger misappropriated Tula’s trade secrets to use in making its own competing store brand of Greek yogurt at the same manufacturing facility.
Tula also is suing Weber, an Illinois-based flavor supply company, for failing to properly treat and process the vanilla bean base it supplied for Tula’s yogurt. According to the complaint, despite the fact that Weber guaranteed its vanilla bean base would be free of contaminants and foreign materials, Tula found numerous instances of mold growing in the finished yogurt and consequently had to recall the product from store shelves.
According to the complaint, the “actions of Kroger and Weber would have significantly harmed any yogurt producer, but they were particularly devastating for Tula because retailers and consumers were just getting to know and love the Better Whey of Life brand.”
The case, Tula Foods Inc. vs. The Kroger Co. and Edgar A. Weber & Co. d/b/a Weber Flavors, has been filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio.