FOX BUSINESS – Fireball drinkers were duped when they picked up a bottle of Fireball Cinnamon at convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets around the country, according to a recent lawsuit filed in Illinois.
The bottles don’t contain any whisky.
The Sazerac Company, the Fireball producer, manufactures, market and sells cinnamon whisky under the Fireball brand. However, in a Jan. 7 lawsuit, Anna Marquez claims the company misled consumers by selling nearly identical 3.4-oz bottles of Fireball Cinnamon – malt beverages flavored to taste like the company’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky product – but doesn’t actually contain whisky.
According to the suit, the product has been sold at thousands of stores including grocery stores, big box retailers, gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S.
“People associate the Fireball Cinnamon with whisky… by selling [a] Fireball Cinnamon product that is a malt-based beverage with a drop of whiskey flavor, that’s deceptive,” Spencer Sheehan, a lawyer with Sheehan & Associates, P.C, who is handling the case, told FOX Business.
Representatives for the Sazerac Company declined to comment on pending litigation.
Although the mini bottles do not contain the word whisky, Marquez claimed in the suit that the company made the label “almost identical” to its Fireball Cinnamon Whisky product.
“Expecting those small bottles labeled “Fireball Cinnamon” to contain whisky ‘[was] an easy mistake to make, and one intended by the manufacture’” the suit stated.
Sheehan argued that a lot of people aren’t even aware that certain convenience stores or gas stations aren’t allowed to sell liquor.
“They’re not going to ask the clerk at the store… is there a change in your alcohol beverage control laws to authorize this'” he said.
In small print on the bottle, the label reads “With Natural Whisky & Other Flavors.” As a result, consumers will assume the product is a malt beverage with added natural whisky and other flavors, the suit claimed.
“[What] the label means to say is that the Product contains ‘Natural Whisky Flavors & Other Flavors’,” the suit said. “By not including the word ‘Flavors’ after ‘Natural Whisky,’ purchasers who look closely will expect the distilled spirit of whisky was added as a separate ingredient.”
The suit further states that although “federal and identical state regulations allow the product’s use of the distilled spirit brand name of Fireball, they prohibit the overall misleading impression created as to “Fireball Cinnamon” version.”
The suit also said that since the “label misleads consumers into believing it is or contains distilled spirits,” the company is also able to sell the product “at a premium price, $0.99 for 50 mL.”
Sheehan wants the company to differentiate these two products so consumers will know that although they are buying a Fireball product, it may not be whisky. He is also hoping that consumers who purchased the product will eventually be compensated.
“We believe that consumers were misled and there has got to be a way to make that fair… because people paid money for it,” he said.