A federal trial between the nation’s two largest wiener manufacturers got underway on Monday in Chicago. The Court will decide whether the hot dog makers broke false advertising laws in their respective efforts to become the biggest dog in the pound. The controversy pits Sara Lee Corp., which makes Ball Park franks, against Kraft Foods Inc.’s Oscar Mayer, in a proceeding that could define how much companies can boast about their products.
The war between the parties started in 2009, when Sara Lee filed suit after Oscar Mayer advertised that its dogs beat Ball Park franks in national taste tests. Kraft argued that the tests were flawed and countersued, alleging that Sara Lee ran false and deceptive ads, which tagged Ball Park as “America’s Best Franks.” The Sara Lee ads also assert that the “other hot dogs aren’t even in the same league.”
At the trial’s opening day, the parties argued over such minutiae as the difference between beef and meat and whether taste tests that exclude buns and condiments are valid. Another focus of the trial will be Kraft’s claim that its jumbo franks are made of beef. Not surprisingly, Sara Lee contends that the claim is untrue and further asserts that Kraft’s “100 Percent Pure Beef” campaign has damaged the sale of Ball Park franks.
At stake in the legal battle is a $1.76 billion hot dog market and whether either company’s boasts crossed a line into the world of ‘false advertising.’ The trial is expected to last two weeks. Stay tuned for the ‘top dog’ finale.