Hawaiian Brand Chips Sued for Misleading Name

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 03, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In case you didn't know, Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips are made in Washington State.

And that's why there is a new case against the chip maker. The company doesn't hide the fact that the chips are made in the mainland, but the plaintiffs say it is false advertising to call them "Hawaiian" chips.

By motion or settlement, the case could be over before too long. But it's still a wake-up call for businesses that advertise products using a state name.

Hawaiian Names

The plaintiffs say it's all about the names, including "Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips," "Hawaiian Luau Barbecue Rings," and "Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion Rings." They also complain that Pinnacle Foods, which was recently acquired by Conagra, uses images of an outrigger canoe, hula dancers, and tropical landscapes to mislead consumers.

"Pinnacle is exploiting the State of Hawaii for its own financial benefit, at the expense of deceived consumers," the lawsuit says. "Pinnacle intentionally plays on the false impression that the Hawaiian Snacks are made in Hawaii in order to differentiate its products and thereby maximize corporate profits."

Michael Maeda of Honolulu and Iliana Sanchez of Los Angeles are the named plaintiffs. They say they would not have purchased the chips if they had known they were made in Washington.

In online advertising, the chip maker says the business started in Washington and spread to 11 western states. It has more than a dozen locations in Hawaii.

Name Use

Ernest Baskin, an assistant professor of food marking at St. Joseph's University, told USA Today that the issue turns on how the word "Hawaiian" is used.

"In a lot of cases, the adjective becomes synonymous to 'in the style of X,'" he said. "There are a lot New York bagels that are definitely not being made in New York."

The case does not involve the Hawaiian Chip Company, which is based in the islands and best known for its sweet potato and taro chips.

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