A&W Root Beer Lawsuit: The Vanilla Controversy Unfolds

by | May 28, 2024 | Product Liability

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Imagine sipping on a cold A&W root beer, the taste of “aged vanilla” swirling on your tongue, an evidence to a century-old recipe that has stood the test of time. It’s a flavor synonymous with tradition, quality, and authenticity. But what if the cherished, aged vanilla was at the center of a brewing storm?

Let’s explore the evolving issue of the A&W root beer lawsuit, a case where the secret behind the famed “aged vanilla” is causing quite a stir in the industry and the A&W root beer and cream soda settlements.

History of A&W Root Beer

Who makes A&W root beer? A&W Root Beer was started by Roy W. Allen in 1919 in the US, setting up the first stand in Lodi, California, to welcome home World War I veterans. In 1922, Allen teamed up with Frank Wright, forming the A&W brand and also starting a chain of restaurants.

Today, the brand is managed by different companies in the US and Canada. In the US, Keurig Dr Pepper owns the brand rights and works with the A&W Restaurant chain to sell the products, which are bottled by various companies.

In Canada, A&W Food Services oversees the restaurants and root beer marketing, with Coca-Cola handling bottling and distribution. The beverage is also available in several other countries, having been imported from regions such as Southeast Asia and Italy.

Keurig Dr Pepper owns A&W and Dr Pepper. This company is also the force behind A&W Concentrate Co. and many famous drink brands including Sunkist, Hawaiian Punch, Snapple, and Schweppes.

A&W Root Beer Lawsuit

Lawsuits for “deceptive” marketing are becoming more common. Now, the A&W Concentrate Co., which is owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper, is facing an A&W lawsuit over the labeling of its soda products.

The A&W lawsuit emphasizes that root beer and cream soda have a deep historical connection with the past, often evoking a sense of nostalgia. These drinks trace back to the late 1800s when they were commonly used as the base soda in ice cream floats.

In recent times, it is believed that vanilla has become a staple in crafting the creamy flavor profile in cream sodas, a finding backed by scientific research that suggests that vanilla can recreate a creamy taste without altering the texture of the drink.

The lawsuit against A&W root beer Concentrate Company and Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc. centers on the claim that these companies falsely advertise their root beer and cream soda products as being “made with aged vanilla.” This term, prominently featured on the A&W root beer labels, is now under scrutiny for potentially misleading customers about the true ingredients of the drinks.


The A&W root beer lawsuit initiated by three plaintiffs centers around the alleged deceptive advertising employed in the promotion of A&W’s root beer and cream soda.

In 2020, the plaintiffs alleged that they were tricked into buying A&W’s root beer and cream soda because the label stated “Made with Aged Vanilla.” They stated that the drinks were actually flavored with a synthetic ingredient, ethyl vanillin, not real vanilla derived from the vanilla plant.

The A&W root beer lawsuit stated that ethyl vanillin is a cheap and low-quality substitute for real vanilla. Despite the companies denying any misconduct and asserting the correctness of their product labeling, the settlement appears to be a move to circumvent prolonged litigation. The upcoming months will witness the culmination of this legal discourse as the involved parties eagerly await the final hearing in October 2023.

The plaintiffs said they wouldn’t have bought the drinks at a higher price if they knew the truth about the flavoring. They mentioned that they would consider buying the drinks again if the company either used real vanilla or labeled the products honestly.

The Controversial Ingredient: Ethyl Vanillin

Ethyl vanillin is a powerful flavoring agent that is extensively used in the food and beverage industry. It is more potent than vanillin, the main flavor component of vanilla beans, offering a richer and more concentrated vanilla flavor and aroma. Though more expensive, it provides sweet, creamy vanilla notes (flavors) in a finer powder form. It can be identified as a white to light yellow crystalline powder.

Consuming large quantities of ethyl vanillin can potentially lead to severe health effects.

Potential side effects include:

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Blindness
  • Bipolar Disorder

It is advised to use it in moderate quantities to avoid such complications.

A&W Root Beer and Cream Soda Settlement

Nearly three years after the case started, a judge in New York agreed with the plaintiffs who filed the A&W root beer lawsuit. A&W and Keurig Dr Pepper have to offer almost full refunds to anyone who bought their root beer or cream soda in the last seven years.

As part of a root beer and cream soda settlement worth $15 million, customers who are part of this group can claim at least $5.50. If they have proof of buying the soda, they can get back up to $25.

Claim Tiers and Potential Awards

Eligible members of the A&W root beer class action settlement can choose from one of three different tiers for a refund, depending on how many products they bought.

Tier one:  This tier allows claimants to secure $5.50 per household without proof of purchase.

Tier two: Claimants here can obtain a minimum of $5.50 plus an additional $0.50 per unit for up to 39 units with valid proof of purchase, capping at $25 per household.

Tier three: This tier grants a guaranteed $5.50 plus $0.50 for each unit above 11 units bought, peaking at a $25 award per household for up to 50 units with appropriate proof of purchase.

It is important to note that only one claim per household is allowed, and the actual amount might vary depending on the total number of valid claims submitted.

Products in the Spotlight

The products implicated in this lawsuit include a range of A&W beverages:

A&W Root Beer — Diet

A&W Root Beer — Ten

A&W Root Beer — Regular

A&W Root Beer — Zero Sugar

A&W Cream Soda — Diet

A&W Cream Soda — Regular

A&W Cream Soda — Zero Sugar

Who Can Submit an A&W Root Beer Claim?

If you bought any specific A&W products for yourself (and not for resale) in the U.S. between February 7, 2016, and June 2, 2023, you can be part of this A&W root beer settlement. The products under scrutiny are various iterations of A&W Root Beer and Cream Soda labeled as “made with aged vanilla,” a claim contested in the lawsuit.

To be eligible for the A&W root beer class action settlement rewards, claimants must submit their cases by October 18, 2023. Those wishing to object to or exclude themselves from the settlement had until August 28, 2023, to do so.

A final hearing, slated for October 19, 2023, aims to resolve the matter definitively. Detailed information and claim submission procedures are available on the settlement website.

The potential award totals up to $25, with varying amounts based on the tier of claim. While proof of purchase isn’t mandatory, providing verifiable transaction details could bolster the claim. Claimants must provide accurate details to avoid legal repercussions and not adversely affect other eligible class members. It’s recommended to consult the FAQs on the Settlement Administrator’s website for eligibility verification before initiating the claim process.


As this chapter of the A&W root beer lawsuit comes to a close, it becomes evident that it has highlighted crucial issues beyond merely the beverage industry. This A&W class action lawsuit has highlighted the need for transparency and ethical labeling practices to safeguard consumer rights. It encourages us to think more deeply about the products we consume and the claims made by brands.

With customers waiting to see how brands will uphold commitments to genuine flavors, the case serves as a significant reminder for all brands to prioritize truth in advertising. As we keep a close eye on the unfolding events, one thing stands clear – the customer’s desire for transparency and honesty remains constant, and perhaps this A&W root beer lawsuit will mark a significant step towards a more truthful advertising landscape.

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