KANSAS CITY — Yogurt-makers Chobani and Dannon, a business unit of Groupe Danone, are engaged in a battle over how food ingredients that are Food and Drug Administration-approved, may be portrayed in advertising campaigns.

Chobani has released separate advertisements that highlight specific ingredients in Dannon Light & Fit and General Mills’ Yoplait Greek 100 yogurts. The advertisements negatively portray Dannon’s use of sucralose in its Light & Fit line and General Mills’ use of potassium sorbate in its Greek 100 yogurts. In both ads, consumers throw away the Dannon and General Mills products once they read the ingredients statement and go on to consume Chobani Simply 100 products.

Shortly after the advertisement was released, Dannon sent Chobani a cease and desist letter regarding the marketing campaign.

Michael J. Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon

“We believe in truthful and honest marketing and advertising, and we are therefore very disappointed that the Chobani campaign misleads and deceives the public about the healthfulness and safety of our Light & Fit brand,” said Michael J. Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon. “Millions of people enjoy Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt because it tastes great, has 80 calories per 5.3-oz serving, and offers consumers a healthy option in so many delicious flavors.

“Like many reduced-calorie foods, Light & Fit Greek nonfat yogurt contains sucralose, an F.D.A.-approved ingredient that has been safely and widely used as a sweetener in foods for more than 15 years. The truth is, we carefully craft our recipes to make our products not only delicious, but nutritious, too. Dannon is a beloved American brand and as a company we have always prioritized the health and safety of our consumers, and to suggest anything to the contrary is false and damaging. We intend to pursue all available avenues to address Chobani’s misleading and deceptive marketing.”

In response to Dannon’s action, Chobani has filed suit in the U.S. District Court Northern District of New York seeking a declaration from the court that Chobani’s advertising for its Simply 100 line is not false.

Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer for Chobani

“Consumers have the right to know what’s in their cup,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer for Chobani. “This campaign is fundamentally about choice — the choice between natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients.

“We’re empowering consumers with facts and information to help them make more informed decisions when they’re buying food for themselves and their family. We know people are concerned about artificial sweeteners in their food, and this campaign is about giving them truthful and accurate information.”

The debate over the importance of specific ingredients in products is at the forefront of the clean label trend and it is gaining traction, according to some market researchers. This past November, the market research firm Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands, predicted that “clean eating” will be an overarching theme in 2016 for the food and beverage industry.

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova
“Clean and clear labeling and ‘free-from’ foods have all gained traction and moved on to the next level during 2015 while other emerging trends for 2016 include the rise of the part-time vegetarian (‘flexitarian’) consumer, interest in a return to food processing the natural or old-fashioned way, the search for permissible indulgence and the re-establishment of links to ‘real’ food,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova.