Lawsuit claims Fireball Cinnamon mini bottles are “misleading” because they don’t contain whiskey

Fireball Cinnamon fans be warned – the mini bottles of the fiery drink you pick up at the grocery store don’t actually contain any whiskey.

In fact, the drink is a malt liquor that tastes like whiskey, much to the dismay of Anna Marquez — the Illinois woman who is suing the Sazerac Company, the maker of Fireball, over “misleading” packaging.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by Marquez earlier this month, alleges that the labeling on the small 99-cent bottles of Fireball Cinnamon is deceptively similar to the labeling on bottles of its other product, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey has 33% alcohol by volume, while Fireball Cinnamon has 16.5% alcohol by volume, according to the company’s website.

Lawsuit claims Fireball Cinnamon mini bottles are "misleading" because they do not contain whiskey
Bottles of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and Fireball Cinnamon, both produced by the Sazerac Company.

US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Customers “expecting the small bottles labeled ‘Fireball Cinnamon’ to contain whiskey ‘was an easy mistake to make and a mistake intended by the manufacturer,'” the suit says. “In fact, what consumers were buying in non-liquor stores “(was) not whiskey at all”, even though (ir) the labels are almost identical.”

The lawsuit alleges that while it is legal for the company to use the brand name “Fireball” for both beverages, federal and state law prohibits creating an overall “misleading impression.”

In addition to similar labels, the lawsuit complains about the text size on Fireball Cinnamon’s label describing its ingredients. The claim alleges that the wording “Malt drink with natural whiskey and other flavors and caramel color” is written in the “smallest permitted size”.

The use of the term “natural whiskey” creates misconceptions about the product, the lawsuit also states.

“Using the words ‘With Natural Whiskey & Other Flavors’ is a clever twist because consumers who make the effort to read this will see how ‘Natural Whiskey’ is distinct from ‘Other Flavors,'” the lawsuit reads.

Customers “will believe the product is a malt beverage with added (1) natural whiskey and (2) other flavorings,” it added.

In other words, buyers may think that natural whiskey is added to the drink as a separate ingredient, instead of understanding that only “whiskey flavor” is added.

On the Fireball website, the company clarifies the difference between its whiskey and malt products.

“There are 2 key differences between the Fireball Cinnamon labels and the Fireball Whiskey label: Any package with Fireball ‘Cinnamon Whiskey’ on the front label is our whiskey-based product,” the site explains. “Any product with Fireball ‘Cinnamon’ on the front, without ‘Whiskey’, is either our malt-based or wine-based product.”

The lawsuit, though filed solely by Marquez, seeks to cover anyone in Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas and Utah who purchased Fireball Cinnamon.

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