Business Bites: ‘Fairy dusting’ lawsuit calls out functional ingredients

5 forked up bites: The soda makers at Poppi face a lawsuit over functional ingredients; FDA issues warning about goat milk infant formula; Pepsi loses a longtime executive while Liquid Death builds its bench; and more.

Scott Miller, Staff writer

June 10, 2024

5 Min Read
Soda cans.

At a Glance

  • Poppi contains 2 grams of prebiotic agave inulin, when 7.5 grams may be the efficacious dose.
  • Believe it or not, this is not the first Cronobacter outbreak linked to infant formula.
  • PepsiCo loses CMO Todd Kaplan, who was with the company for 18 years.

Frivolous lawsuits may be a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start important conversations. Look at the latest litigation against Poppi, wherein the plaintiff claims the functional soda’s prebiotic benefits are overstated. This practice, called “fairy dusting,” has become commonplace, and can even be dangerous when coupled with other ingredients, such as large amounts of caffeine. Also this week, FDA issues yet another warning about infant formula, PepsiCo loses a major executive, and more.

Soda lawsuit spotlights "fairy dusting" problem

Popular low-sugar soda brand Poppi faces a class-action lawsuit over accusations of “fairy dusting,” which refers to including less-than-efficacious amounts of functional ingredients in a food or beverage so that the marketing department can slap said ingredient’s name on the label. In Poppi’s case, the ingredient is agave inulin, a gut-healthy prebiotic.

According to the Associated Press, Poppi only contains 2 grams of agave inulin fiber, and in her lawsuit, consumer Kristin Cobbs cited research suggesting that even 7.5 grams of agave inulin daily was insufficient to confer benefits. It’s worth noting that some research seems to suggest otherwise. Instead of citing this research, however, Poppi’s official response was as canned as its beverages.

“We are on a mission to revolutionize soda for the next generation of soda drinkers, and we have diligently innovated to provide a tasting experience that millions of people have come to enjoy,” the company said. “We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we will vigorously defend against these allegations.”

Tune into this episode of New Hope Network’s podcast, The Natural List, where I speak more on this topic.

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FDA issues warning over Cronobacter in goat-milk formula

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert for parents and caregivers who use Crecelac Infant Powdered Goat Milk Infant Formula, and is it just me, or does the extra “infant” in the product name imply the formula itself is made from powdered infants?

Although I’m relatively certain this stuff does not contain babies, it might contain Cronobacter sakazakii, a potentially deadly bacterium that can lead to sepsis and meningitis. No illnesses have been reported yet, but the situation sounds alarmingly similar to a Cronobacter outbreak in 2022 that led to four infections, two infant deaths, a large formula recall, and an FDA reorganization.

Considering that FDA is partially funded by “user fees” from the companies it regulates, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that dangerous bacteria keep slipping through the cracks.

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PepsiCo loses CMO, Liquid Death gains CFO

After nearly two decades at PepsiCo, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Todd Kaplan is leaving the company to pursue another opportunity. Kaplan was appointed CMO in 2022 and led such initiatives as Pepsi’s first major visual overhaul in years, as well as improving growth for Pepsi Zero Sugar and expanding its water portfolio. That said, he’s leaving right after Dr Pepper surpassed Pepsi as America’s second favorite soda. Regardless, whatever he does next is sure to be interesting. Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll fade away and we’ll never hear about him again as, like most executives, he dutifully accepts the consequences of leadership in modern corporate America, which usually means receiving a big fat paycheck with zero public scrutiny for any of your choices.

Also, beverage brand Liquid Death just added a chief financial officer (CFO) — a former Pepsi executive, no less, but not Kaplan. Karim Sadik-Khan brings decades of experience to the role, coming from Beam Suntory North America, a multinational spirits provider. Liquid Death also appointed former White Claw executive Stephen Ballard as its first chief commercial officer last October. Some industry experts speculate that this ongoing expansion of the C-suite may signal big things for the beverage company.

Flavor company Virginia Dare announces new HQ

Just a year after celebrating its 100-year anniversary, the flavor makers at Virginia Dare have moved their headquarters from Brooklyn, New York, to Carteret, New Jersey. You might be wondering, why not Virginia? Turns out, the company’s name comes from the first English child born in America, a member of the ill-fated Roanoke colony who disappeared along with her entire settlement at roughly one week old. Sure, let’s name a flavor company in her honor. Why not?

At any rate, the new facility reportedly features a tasting booth, sensory center and production areas for product testing and prototyping, as well as new labs and equipment, including a dedicated customer lab to facilitate collaboration. The company also opened a new product development lab in California in late 2023.

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Genetically modified potatoes promise healthier fries, chips

Finally, researchers in the U.S. (because who else was going to do it?) have created a healthier potato. Genetically modified potatoes are nothing new, of course; as the third most important global crop, the beloved and versatile spud has been undergoing genetic modification since the 1990s, mostly to increase yields and reduce disease susceptibility.

Now, scientists have figured out how to “silence” a gene that produces the vacuolar acid invertase enzyme, which converts sucrose into sugars like glucose and causes rot and moisture loss. Translation: Expect less off-color browning and caramelization.

The new variety is called the Kal91.3, which apparently none of the researchers realized sounds more like a radio station than a food, and its newfound traits also include an increased resistance to colder temperatures, meaning storing and transporting these taters should be easier as well.

About the Author(s)

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

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