Red Stripe, the popular beer originally brewed in and imported from the island of Jamaica, is the cause of the latest consumer lawsuit against a brewery for allegedly misleading consumers.
Two California residents have filed suit against Diageo, the company that brews Red Stripe, for its deceptive labeling practices. According to the lawsuit, Diageo is deliberately misleading customers, making them believe Red Stripe is brewed in Jamaica when, in fact, it is brewed in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The lawsuit points out the use of descriptions such as “Jamaican Style Lager” and the “taste of Jamaica” on the bottle and the lack of any clear indication that the beer is brewed in the USA as indications of marketing deception.
Examining Red Stripe packaging closely does reveal the statement “Brewed & Bottled by Red Stripe Beer Company, Latrobe, PA.” However, the lawsuit claims that these words are difficult to see and cannot be found without a determined effort. Again, this points to deception, at least in the minds of the plaintiffs. They claim that Diageo is trying its best to mislead the consumer into thinking the beer is a Caribbean import.
Besides the packaging, part of the lawsuit deals with pricing. Red Stripe is priced higher than other American beers, even though it is brewed in a similar way to its American brewed brethren and uses American ingredients. The lawsuit claims that the higher pricing is directly tied to the misleading nature of the packaging: Make consumers think they are buying an imported beer and they will be more willing to pay the higher price.
Red Stripe Beer is, of course, a Jamaican beer at least in the historic sense. It was originally brewed in Jamaica and production continued in this tropical island nation for quite some time. Only in 2012 did parent Diageo move production of Red Stripe to the United States.
This lawsuit against Diageo is the latest in a series of legal actions taken against other breweries for similar labeling practices. Anheuser- Busch InBev was hit with two lawsuits over the past year, one over Beck’s beer and one over Kirin brands. In each instance, the lawsuit claimed that the big brewers were purposely misleading consumers by making them think the beer was brewed overseas in order to boost prestige, increase sales, and justify higher prices.
This lawsuit against Red Stripe might have a more difficult time in court because the manufacturer can point to the “Brewed & Bottled by Red Stripe Beer Company, Latrobe, PA.” on the label as proof of full and honest disclosure. But the obscurity of this statement does make one wonder if deception is the motive. If a judge decides in favor of consumers, Diageo may face similar punishments as those handed down to Anheuser- Busch InBev: A requirement that the labels more clearly disclose where the beer is brewed and an offer to refund customers for past purchases.