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Foul odor spurs Oliver Winery hard-cider lawsuit

January 15, 2013

An agreement Oliver Wine Co. Inc. made with a container manufacturer to purchase cans for the winery’s hard apple cider has gone sour.

Bloomington-based Oliver filed suit against the Broomfield, Colo.-based Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp., once headquartered in Muncie, in Monroe Circuit Court in December. The case was transferred to federal court in Indianapolis last week.

Oliver claims the metal cans Ball supplied for the cider produced a chemical reaction when coming into contact with the beverage, causing a foul odor and spurring customer complaints.

The winery issued a voluntary recall of the cider and since has suffered “significant damages,” according to its complaint.

Oliver does not specify the amount of damages it is seeking. The price Oliver paid to buy a total of 1.3 million cans from Ball has been redacted from a purchase order included in the complaint.

The winery is claiming breach of warranties and contract, negligence and product liability.

Citing company policy, a Ball spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Oliver has been producing wine since 1972, but only introduced its cider in 2011 under the Beanblossom Hard Cider name.

The cider initially entered the market in 16.9-ounce aluminum bottles, which are manufactured by a vendor other than Ball. The cider sold so well that Oliver expanded the line to include 8-ounce cans, the winery said, to be priced at about $2 each.

In February 2012, Oliver purchased the cans from Ball after the company analyzed cider samples and concluded that they were compatible with the cans and linings selected by Ball, according to the complaint.

But the smell that emanated from the cans when they were opened led Oliver to recall the cider soon after. The winery blames the odor on a chemical reaction caused by the copper pitting in the cans, which produced hydrogen sulfide in the cider.

A lawyer for Oliver said the winery has no comment on the lawsuit. Oliver’s cider is still available in the larger aluminum bottles, which sell for about $4 each.

Ball is the largest supplier of aluminum cans in the United States. The company moved its corporate headquarters from Muncie to Colorado in 1998.
 

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