HBC Trading pays penalties for allegedly misleading Chef's Choice alcohol free 'pure' vanilla extract claims

23 December 2021

Food distributor and retailer HBC Trading Australia Pty Ltd (HBC Trading) has paid penalties of $26,640 after the ACCC issued it with two infringement notices for allegedly making false or misleading representations about its Chef’s Choice-branded ‘alcohol free pure vanilla extract’.

Chef’s Choice used the word ‘pure’ in the product’s name and placed an image of vanilla beans and a vanilla flower on the label, despite the extract containing ingredients not derived from vanilla beans. This included flavouring in the form of vanillin derived from clove oil, as well as added colour, glycerine and xanthan gum.

“Vanilla is an expensive and sought-after ingredient that many bakers regard as essential. We are concerned that bakers who intended to buy ‘pure’ vanilla to make their cakes and slices could have been misled into buying extract that included additional flavour from a non-vanilla bean source,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“It is a basic rule of consumer law that what you advertise must be what you supply to your customers. In this case, our concern is that consumers would believe this product contained only an extract of vanilla beans, and not additional ingredients.”

While all ingredients were disclosed on the label, this disclosure was in significantly smaller font than the words ‘pure vanilla’ on the label.

“Consumers rely on the accuracy of claims made on food product label, and businesses must ensure their labelling is truthful and not likely to mislead consumers,” Ms Rickard said.

The Chef’s Choice alcohol free pure vanilla extract was sold in retail outlets, including supermarkets, and promoted in an online catalogue published on HBC Trading’s website in October 2021.

HBC Trading has also agreed to amend the name and label of the product by removing the word ‘pure’ and renaming it ‘vanilla flavouring’.

Background

HBC Trading is a food distributor, wholesaler and retailer based in Regents Park, NSW. It supplies food products through retailers and its website.

Vanilla is a spice derived from a type of orchid and is the second-most expensive spice in the world (after saffron).

Examples of the labelling are below:

Front of vanilla bottle
Left hand side of vanilla bottle

Product from catalogue

Note to editors

The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, which also sets the penalty amount.

The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened certain consumer protection provisions in the Australian Consumer Law.

Release number: 
224/21
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Media enquiries: 
Media Team - 1300 138 917, media@accc.gov.au