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Lawsuits & Litigation

King’s Hawaiian Rolls are Made in Cali, Lawsuit Says

— January 14, 2021

A new suit contends King’s Hawaiian is misleading consumers about where its rolls are made.

A new class-action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court accuses King’s Hawaiian, a well-known baked goods brand, of defrauding consumers by giving the impression that its Hawaiian rolls are still made in Hawaii when they’re actually made in California.

“King’s Hawaiian has been known as the most authentic purveyor of its eponymous Hawaiian rolls,” Long Island attorney Spencer Sheehan, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Yonkers man and others, said. “Unfortunately, they’re labeling gives consumers the impression that it’s made in Hawaii.  It’s not.”

The complaint lists Robert Galinsky as the named plaintiff for the class and contends King’s Hawaiian “essentially invented this category of food” even though similar companies, including Pillsbury and Sara Lee, have since attempted marketed copycat versions.  It mentions four suits previously filed by King’s Hawaiian Holding Co. against competitors for attempting to market products in similar packaging.

King's Hawaiian Rolls are Made in Cali, Lawsuit Says
Photo by Nanna Moilanen on Unsplash

In 2019, King’s Hawaiian settled with Aldi over its nearly identical packaging it claimed infringed on its intellectual property.  In that case, King’s Hawaiian accused Aldi of selling sweet rolls “that intentionally and willfully employ product packaging that is confusingly similar to the distinctive packaging trade dress that King’s Hawaiian uses in connection with its King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls.”

“The King’s Hawaiian packaging trade dress is one of our most valuable assets, and King’s Hawaiian has assembled a top-notch, two-firm legal team to protect and to enforce our intellectual property rights in the trade dress,” John Linehan, chief strategy officer for King’s Hawaiian, said after the settlement. “We have invested significant time and resources, and it is our intent that this legal team will vigorously pursue any infringement of our trade dress anytime, in any place and at any cost.”

The most recent filing mentions these cases to demonstrate how much King’s relies on its packaging to sell the infamous product.  When the company originally began to manufacture its rolls, they were in fact made in Hawaii.  However, this hasn’t been the case in some years.

“The objection,” the lawsuit said, “is the front label mention of ‘Hilo, Hawaii,’ where the rolls were first made in the 1950s.  However, they’re now made in Torrance, California – and the suggestion of continued Hawaiian authenticity means consumers must pay a higher price for the buns,” the lawsuit reads.

It continues, “Defendant’s prominent placement of ‘Hilo, Hawaii,’ on the front label – coupled with the other legitimate uses of the word ‘Hawaiian’ – is deceptive and misleading to consumers who believe they are buying a product made in Hawaii.  Had plaintiff and class members known the truth, they would not have bought the product or would have paid less for them.  For many consumers, authenticity has overtaken quality as the prevailing purchasing criterion.  Reasonable consumers understand that the term ‘Hawaiian Rolls’ by itself, does not denote a roll made in Hawaii any more than a ‘Moon Pie’ can claim to have been baked on the moon.”


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