I'm a fan of Veggie Straws. They're as good as any mass-market chip you’d find in a grocery store: satiating, salted generously. An ideal accompaniment to a sandwich. They’re billed as a “vegetable and potato snack,” their packaging replete with images of glimmering produce; the backs of their bags claim that these vegetables are “garden-grown” and “ripe.”
That language doesn’t exactly match up with the snack's ingredient makeup: These chips are mostly a coleslaw of potato starch, corn starch, tomato paste, and spinach powder, along with other ingredients that were formerly vegetables until they were processed violently into small tubes. In other words, I believe it’d be quite silly to see Veggie Straws as interchangeable with actual vegetables—a truth lost, apparently, on two men from opposite ends of the country who are now suing Hain Celestial Group, the manufacturer behind Veggie Straws.
Last week, John Solak of Bible School Park, NY, and Jim Figger of Murrieta, CA, filed a potential class-action lawsuit in New York federal court against Hain under the claim that the actual ingredient calculus of Veggie Straws is at odds with the “the actual vibrantly depicted vegetables” displayed on the bags. It's resulted, these men argue, in a snack that's less "healthy" than these cosmetics may lead less-discerning consumers to believe. The two men, represented by Sergei Lemberg, are hoping to rope in consumers who’ve purchased the product in the past six years for a class-action suit.
Say what you will about the weight of these claims—some critics have chalked this up to a transparent cash-grab in the mighty, righteous name of having the consumer’s best interests in mind. The lawyer representing Solak and Figger has invoked the think-of-the-children line of defense, claiming that the demographic most likely to fall victim to is misleading marketing is, well, children.
Shop the Story
Anyway, if there’s an immediate takeaway from this lawsuit, let it be this: A bag of Veggie Straws shouldn't preclude you from ingesting actual produce. Eat your vegetables.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.