Illinois woman sues over too few Junior Mints in a box

CHICAGO — An Illinois has woman filed a consumer fraud lawsuit over Junior Mints, charging deception packaging because there is so little of the chocolate-peppermint candy in the boxes they come in.

There is nearly as much air as candy in the box, according to the lawsuit, filed against Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries, the maker of Junior Mints.

“They have created this oversized theater box and it misleads consumers because consumers believe they’re getting more candy when they purchase a box of Junior Mints than they’re actually getting,” Christopher Moon, an attorney representing the plaintiff, said Friday. “The size of the actual packaging is itself a misrepresentation.”

Tootsie Roll executives were not available for comment.

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Filed on Thursday on behalf of Paige Stemm, the lawsuit seeks class-action status for what it claims is Tootsie Roll’s “misleading, deceptive and unlawful conduct” in packaging its Junior Mints, which take up only slightly more than half of their familiar cardboard box.

Stemm, of downstate Belleville, bought the Junior Mints this month at a Walgreens for about $1, according to the lawsuit.

The Junior Mints lawsuit is one of several cases brought against food manufacturers for allegedly deceptive and unnecessary empty space in packaging. Governed by federal regulation, slack fill is “the difference between the actual capacity of a container and the volume of product contained therein.”

In some cases, slack fill serves a purpose, such as the air cushion that protects potato chips from breaking in the bag. In other cases, a larger package may simply be misleading consumers, according to lawsuits against manufacturers.

“In a situation like Junior Mints, that empty space actually can increase the chances that the candies will be damaged because they move around quite a bit inside the hard cardboard box,” Moon said.

The number of federal class-action lawsuits related to slack fill in food packaging increased from 20 in 2008 to more than 110 in 2015, according to an article published last month by the American Bar Association.

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Moon’s firm filed a similar lawsuit last week against Oakbrook Terrace-based Ferrara Candy, which makes Lemonhead, Jujyfruits, Chuckles and other brands, all of which allegedly contain deceptive empty space in their packaging.

Such lawsuits have met with mixed results in the courts.

A federal judge in Chicago last month dismissed a case against chocolatier Fannie May over allegedly excessive packaging space. The plaintiffs plan to file an amended complaint, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, a 2015 case Minnesota-based spice-maker Watkins brought against McCormick & Co., the Maryland-based spice giant, over allegedly underfilled pepper tins is ongoing in federal court in Washington.

Junior Mints have been a candy staple since they were launched in 1949. The brand was acquired by Tootsie Roll in 1993.