INDIANAPOLIS — Life isn't so sweet for Splenda in what could turn into a bitter courtroom battle.
Heartland Consumer Products, the Carmel-based company behind Splenda, is suing Dunkin' Brands Inc., alleging the company is misleading consumers into thinking they are getting the real Splenda when it’s just a knockoff.
According to the complaint filed in federal court this week, after Dunkin’ and Heartland ended their business relationship in April, the restaurant chain turned to “Chinese-made, off-brand sucralose” in packaging that Heartland claims is similar to Splenda’s.
Both sweeteners come in pastel-yellow paper packets.
The Dunkin’ version does not include any brand name for the sucralose it contains, but the new packaging indicates it is manufactured for Dunkin’ by Chicago-based Merisant.
Additionally, the company claims Dunkin' employees tell customers that Dunkin' uses Splenda products.
“Investigators revealed that a clear majority of stores affirmatively represented, through their agents or employees, that non-Splenda sucralose sweetener was instead Splenda brand sweetener,” the complaint states.
Heartland has requested an injunction to stop Dunkin' Donuts from representing that it uses Splenda products, as Dunkin' is "irreparably damaging the value of Heartland’s iconic Splenda trademark and other marks," according to the 22-page complaint.
The company is requesting other damages arising from Dunkin's "violations of trademark and trade dress infringement, dilution and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, the Indiana State Trademark Act, the common law of the State of Indiana and the Indiana Crime Victims Act."
Splenda is a low-calorie sweetener derived from sugar using a patented process to create a sweetener that tastes like sugar, according to its website.
It was introduced to American markets in 1999. and Heartland and owns 62% of market share as of 2007. The company's U.S. trade sales this year are expected to be $163 million.
Representatives from both companies could not be reached Friday.
Heartland is represented by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister in Indianapolis.