On September 12, 2022, Plaintiff and California resident Phillip White, brought a class lawsuit on behalf of himself and other similarly situated plaintiffs against Defendant T.W. Garner Food Company in the United States District Court of Central District of California. The Complaint asserts that although T.W. Garner brands its hot sauce products under its Texas Pete brand name, there is “surprisingly nothing Texas about them.” Plaintiff alleges that unknown to consumers, Texas Pete’s hot sauces are standard Louisiana-style, made with ingredients sourced outside the state of Texas, at a factory in North Carolina. Even though the hot sauce is not from Texas, the hot sauce products feature “packaging and labeling with distinctly Texan imagery: the famed white ‘lone’ star from the Texan flag together with a ‘lassoing’ cowboy.” Plaintiff argues that he and others were willing to pay premium prices for Texas Pete’s hot sauce under the impression that they are “authentically connected” to Texas. Plaintiff provides examples of premium origin products including “authentic Mexican tortillas, Belgian Chocolate, and Napa, California wines.”
The origins of the brand name Texas Pete, according to T.W. Garner’s website, resonated from the Garner family wanting the hot sauce to have an “American name” eventually leading it to “Texas, which also had a reputation for spicy cuisine.”
Nevertheless, Plaintiff asserts that T.W. Garner engaged in “false, misleading, and deceptive” advertising by selling millions of dollars of hot sauce products based on false representations. According to Plaintiff, if he had known Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce was not authentically Texan, he would never have purchased it.
While this class action lawsuits and other lawsuits like it tend to generate a significant amount of playful media attention, false advertising can come with a stiff penalty. The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia all have consumer protection statutes prohibiting false or misleading advertising—and there are significant penalties for violating these statutes Therefore, when crafting advertising strategies that potentially push the truth to the limit, such as potentially stating that hot sauce from North Carolina is actually from Texas, businesses are almost always wise to err on the side of caution.