The two-year battle pitted Sara Lee’s Ball Park and Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer hot dogs. The companies, America’s largest hot dog makers, both alleged the other exaggerated their claims about being No. 1.
The two Chicago-area food giants announced Thursday that they have settled out of court – less than a month after their civil trial began.
The terms of their frankfurter cease-fire were confidential, though Sara Lee spokesman Mike Cummins did say neither side paid money to the other, and that neither was changing its marketing practices.
“Sara Lee is pleased with the outcome, and looks forward to continuing to produce and market its leading hot dog brand,” he said in a statement.
Messages seeking comment were left at Kraft’s headquarters Thursday evening.
In a sometimes surreal opening of the trial in Chicago last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow proclaimed to assembled lawyers, “Let the wiener wars begin.” Straight-faced attorneys went on to superimpose giant hot dogs on a courtroom screen as they delivered their opening remarks.
Denlow was supposed to decide after the trial if either company broke false advertising laws.
The legal beef began when Sara Lee filed a lawsuit in 2009, singling out Oscar Mayer ads that brag its dogs beat Ball Park franks in a national taste test. Sara Lee argued the tests were deeply flawed and gave as an example that the hot dogs were presented to participants without buns or any condiments, such as ketchup.
Kraft filed a countersuit later in 2009, accusing Sara Lee of running ads for Ball Parks with the tagline “America’s Best Franks” based on an award from ChefsBest, a food-judging organization based in San Francisco.
The other focus of the trial was Kraft’s claim that its Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Franks are “100 percent pure beef.” Sara Lee said the claim is untrue, that it cast aspersions on Ball Park franks and damaged their sales.
Kraft countered that the 100 percent beef tag was never intended to suggest there weren’t other ingredients – such as water and salt. The company said it was only meant to convey that the meat that was used was all beef.