SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A few changes are coming to grocery shelves for Ghirardelli and Russell Stover chocolate products after several district attorney offices and the two chocolate companies reached a settlement agreement in court.

Several county District Attorneys, including Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Yolo County, filed a civil complaint alleging that the chocolate makers used packaging that misled consumers about how much product they were actually purchasing.

The parties eventually reached a settlement where the chocolate makers, without admitting wrongdoing, will modify or discontinue packaging for certain products. Ghirardelli and Russell Stover were also required to pay a $750,000 fine.

What was alleged?

The allegations were that some containers were oversized and presented the idea that consumers were getting for their purchase than they actually got.

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An exhibit photo from the Yolo County Superior Court complaint
Yolo County Superior Court

Some of the examples were in regard to:

  • nonfunctional slack fill packaging that implied products filled the whole package
  • packaging that had large voids around the actual product in the box
  • misleading false sidewalls
  • One Ghirardelli cocoa product was also said to have not listed the correct weight
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An exhibit photo of a Ghirardelli tent bag from Yolo County Superior Court
Yolo County Superior Court

What’s changing?

According to the court judgment, the following packaging is being discontinued: 

  • Ghirardelli Masterpieces Box
  • Ghirardelli Caramel Everyday Squares Box
  • Ghirardelli Assorted YRD Tray Box
  • Ghirardelli Caramel Every SQ Pouch Gift
  • Ghirardelli Assorted Everyday Square Pouch Gift
  • Ghirardelli Square SF Medium Tote
  • Ghirardelli Assortment Squares/Square SF Small Tote
  • Ghirardelli Cable Car Box
  • Ghirardelli Premium Chocolate Assortment Squares

Both the Whitman’s Sampler and the Russell Stover Holiday Season Box with 52 pieces will get new packaging and new dimensions.

Ghirardelli’s stand-up “tent” bags will be modified to have transparent windows on one side of the package, with set dimensions, and the Ghirardelli 100 percent Unsweetened Cocoa will have to comply with the weighing procedures in the judgment.

"We are committed to providing our consumers with superior quality products and services," said David Hartley, with Consumer Affairs for Ghirardelli, in an email response to ABC10.

"Several district attorney’s offices in Northern California have been jointly investigating alleged violations of the rules governing how big a package’s volume can be relative to the volume of its contents," Hartley continued. "Ghirardelli / Russell Stover was part of this investigation. The consumer’s satisfaction and enjoyment of our product is our highest priority and we took the matter very seriously. Accordingly, Ghirardelli / Russell Stover slightly adapted their packaging practices and reached an agreement with the district attorneys."

A request for comment from Russell Stover was not returned.

“Consumers have the right to expect full value in their purchases and compliance with packaging requirements is an integral part of the process," said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig in a statement. "We will continue to aggressively monitor businesses and prosecute those that violate consumer protection laws.”

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