February 7, 2020
Authored by: Bob Boone and Sarah Burwick
In a multidistrict litigation accusing McCormick & Co. of deceptively underfilling the pepper it sells in grinders and tins, a D.C. federal judge preliminarily approved a $2.5 million class settlement last week.
Consumers first sued McCormick in 2015, challenging the spice manufacturer’s response to economic pressures in the black pepper marketplace. Facing rising wholesale prices and a decreased market share, McCormick reduced the weight of ground pepper in its tins and peppercorns in its pepper grinders by 25% and 19%, respectively, but did not reduce the container size or change the price. Retailers sold the containers with reduced amounts between March 2015 and June 2016. The plaintiffs’ original complaint alleged that McCormick and other brands it supplied misled consumers by constructing the packages to hide the reduction of product with “nonfunctional slack-fill,” or empty space.
Within months of the first case against McCormick, additional copycat consumer suits followed. In late