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Anheuser-Busch settles false advertising lawsuit over Ritas brand alcoholic beverages

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  • A Missouri federal judge has given the green light to a settlement that would see Anheuser Busch LLC reimburse customers who say they were deceived by the company’s packaging of its Lime-A-Rita Sparkling Margarita and other ‘Ritas’ products.
  • On July 19, US District Judge Stephen R. Bough preliminary approved a settlement allowing purchasers of certain Ritas brand alcoholic drinks since Jan. 1, 2018, to recover $21.25 per household with proof or $9.75 without proof.
  • The plaintiffs alleged the “Sparkling Margarita” drinks contain no tequila, “Mojito” drinks are made without rum, and “Sangria” and “Rosé” drinks lack wine.
  • Anheuser-Busch has also agreed to add the words “Malt Beverage” on the drinks’ packaging.

(Nov. 11, 2020)

A pair of consumers allege that Anheuser-Busch misleadingly advertises its Lime-A-Rita Sparkling Margarita products in a new class action lawsuit filed in Missouri federal court.

Lead plaintiffs, Megan Browning and Allen Kesselring, claim that Anheuser-Busch dupes consumers into thinking that it puts tequila in its Lime-A-Rita. Further, the company allegedly uses the same tactics for its other products in the “Rita” line, including Mojito, Rosé, and Sangria. In fact, these products do not contain the signature alcohols generally associated with the drinks Anheuser-Busch uses to advertise them, it contains the class action lawsuit.

According to the class action lawsuit, the Rita line of beverages are simply flavored beer. The plaintiffs say that they and other consumers would not have purchased or paid as much for their Lime-A-Ritas or other products they had known.

Each of the plaintiffs claim that they believed they were purchasing products that contained the liquor associated with the advertised beverage. Browning says she purchased several iterations of the Lime-A-Rita Sparkling Margarita products, including lime, peach, and watermelon flavored beverages. She alleges that she believed the products contained tequila because Anheuser-Busch used “MARGARITA” on the packaging and included a picture of a salted margarita glass.

In addition, Browning claims she also purchased the Rita rosé and sangria products thinking they contained wine.

“In purchasing the Wine Product, Ms. Browning saw and relied on the words ‘ROSÉ’ and ‘SANGRIA’ on the front package of the Wine Product and reasonably expected that it contained wine,” asserts the complaint. “Moreover, nowhere on the packaging did Ms. Browning see a disclaimer or any other statement indicating that Wine Product does not contain wine, or that Wine Product is just a flavored beer.”

Kesselring similarly alleges that he purchased Lime-A-Rita products, including a variety pack, a strawberry version, and the rosé and sangria beverages.

According to the complaint, “nowhere on the packaging did Mr. Kesselring see a disclaimer or any other statement indicating that the Margarita Products do not contain tequila, or that the product is just a flavored beer. Had Mr. Kesselring known that the Margarita Products did not contain tequila, he would not have purchased them or would have paid significantly less for them.”

The plaintiffs point out that most consumers, when ordering a margarita at a bar or restaurant would reasonably expect the beverage to contain tequila. They say it’s reasonable to expect the same is true for other products.

The complaint points out that representations on the front, sides, and top of the product’s packaging do not indicate that the beverages do not contain the liquor or wine usually associated with the advertised cocktail. Instead, the plaintiffs say only a small disclaimer on the bottom of the box indicates the beverages are “Malt Beverage[s] With Natural Flavors and Caramel Color.”

Even with this disclaimer, the class action lawsuit contends that most consumers would not necessarily understand that “malt beverage” means that the products do not contain tequila, rum, or wine. The complaint points to research that indicates most consumers only look to the front of a product’s packaging when deciding to make a purchase.

“Reasonable consumers did not know, and had no reason to know, that the Products were, and continue to be, falsely and deceptively packaged,” argue the plaintiffs. “Nowhere on the front, sides, or top panel of the packaging (the consumer facing panels) does Defendant state that the Products do not have distilled liquor or wine, or that the Products are actually just flavored beers that taste like margaritas, mojitos or wines.”

The class action lawsuit also points to other advertising efforts by Anheuser-Busch to trick consumers into thinking their Rita products are more than flavored beer, including a commercial where Rita wine products are represented in a traditional wine tasting.

According to the complaint, Anheuser-Busch sells the following products in its Rita line:

  • Rita
  • Berry-A-Rita
  • Mang-O-Rita
  • Lemon-Ade-Rita
  • Guav-A-Rita
  • Pome-Garnet-Rita
  • Grape-A-Rita
  • Party Ritas Variety Pack

In addition, the beverage maker also allegedly misleadingly advertises Ritas Mojito Fizz products in lime and strawberry flavors, as well as Ritas Sangria Spritz and Ritas Rosé Spritz.

The plaintiffs point to other competing products that do contain the type of alcohol associated with the cocktail used to advertise the beverage. The plaintiffs say that Anheuser-Busch is taking advantage of consumers and selling its products at an unfair premium because of the deceptive advertising.

The class action lawsuit seeks to represent a nationwide class of consumers who purchased beverages from the Rita line, as well as a Missouri subclass.

Have you purchased Lime-A-Rita Sparkling Margarita products? What do you think of the class action allegations? Tell us in the comment section below!

The lead plaintiffs and proposed Class Members are represented by Tim E. Dollar of Dollar Burns & Becker, LC.

the Lime-A-Rita Sparkling Margarita False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit es Browning, et al. v. Anheuser-Busch LLCCase No. 4:20-cv-00889-HFS, in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

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