Locke Lord lawyers from practice groups across the Firm have been serving the food, beverage and agricultural industries for decades. We have experience with virtually all facets of the industry, from the seeds from which grains are grown to the restaurant business. We represent suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, dealers, and retailers. Our lawyers provide advice and counsel to companies engaged in the food and agriculture business, in segments such as timber, dairy, plant products, fishing, citrus, food processing, food retail, nurseries, livestock, cranberries, and row crops. We act as trusted advisors to the food and beverage industry and pride ourselves on understanding our clients' products, the importance of their reputation and the risk to future revenue.
We represent manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, dealers, and retailers and industry participants in transactions, the provision of regulatory compliance advice and lobbying services, and in all manner of litigation. We have worked on matters involving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and various state and local regulatory agencies. Our lawyers understand the intersections of business and government and are skilled navigators of the often challenging operating environment created by all levels of government.
We have conducted national recalls on food and beverage products on behalf of manufacturers, retailers and distributors and in that regard, have coordinated communications with respect to the recall. When a problem does arise in the supply chain, our vast product liability experience permits us to provide valuable assistance in root cause analyses and documentation as well as on product traceability issues. Our work has involved gathering information, reviewing production/processing documentation, and conducting employee interviews. Our product liability experience permits us to effectively draft and evaluate warning labels, product instructions, owner manuals, product literature, and warranty documents.
Corporate & Transactional
We assemble interdisciplinary teams with the breadth and depth of experience and capabilities necessary to guide our food and beverage clients through any merger, acquisition, divestiture, debt financing, equity investment or other strategic transaction such as a joint venture, leveraged buyout and spin-off. We advise our clients on all aspects of a transaction including structural, regulatory, securities, tax, benefits, employment, corporate governance and antitrust issues.
Consumer Fraud Class Actions
The food and beverage industry is under siege by plaintiffs' class action lawyers, whose creativity in creating claims knows no bounds. Whether the claims relate to products described as:
- Small Batch
- Made in the USA (or a particular state)
- GMO Free
or similar claims, our lawyers have experience in resolving such claims. Our class action litigators are well-versed in the strategic decision making that major class action litigation involves, including the management of multi-jurisdictional matters. We have significant experience in developing a strategy that takes into account our clients' most important concerns, which may not always be "win at all costs." But when the strategy is "win at all costs," we provide our clients with a desired outcome.
We advise on all business aspects of patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and related antitrust issues. Many of our practitioners have years of practical experience as scientists and engineers in industry and commerce. We have specific experience relating to the seed and agricultural biotechnology industries, and have represented biotechnology trait providers, seed producers, seed dealers, seed distributors, seed certification agencies, plant variety protection certificate holders, patent holders, seedsmen's errors and omissions insurers, and seed certification agencies and seed association's errors and omissions insurers.
Antitrust Counseling & Litigation
Locke Lord’s team of dedicated Antitrust lawyers have experience advising food and beverage companies on a variety of antitrust and competition issues. We provide food and beverage industry specific antitrust counseling to ensure policies, procedures, and compliance protocols are in place and effective. We also have broad, deep experience in litigating Sherman Act, Clayton Act, FTC Act, and Robinson-Patman Act issues as well as other civil and criminal antitrust violations.
Labor Issue Counseling & Litigation
Our lawyers regularly handle all manner of issues facing employers including federal and local employment laws in all 50 states. We have provided counseling on labor issues related to recalls and factory shuts downs, as well as handling any related litigation.
Examples of our work on behalf of food and beverage clients include:
- Acting as outside general counsel to the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association.
- Defending numerous food and beverage product liability cases including taking cases to trial.
- Providing regulatory counseling concerning all manner of issues related to the FDA and the USDA.
- Providing regulatory counseling concerning labeling and claims.
- Drafting and filing citizen petition requesting that the FDA allow food companies to label potassium chloride by its alternative common and usual name potassium salt
- Counseling a major food processing equipment manufacturer on product liability issues for more than five decades.
- Advising national and regional restaurant chains on their franchise agreements and related matters.
- Spearheading a regional food manufacturer’s strategic analysis and renegotiation of a burdensome consent decree with the Department of Justice.
- Assisting the nation’s largest dairy farmers’ cooperative to acquire, obtain regulatory approvals for, and subsequently divest numerous dairy processors.
- Handling all manner of government relations and lobbying work for the National Association of Agriculture and Food Policy.
- Coordinating and negotiating acquisition of a 26-site agronomy business for an agricultural cooperative and coordinated the conveyance of 18 of the sites to member cooperatives.
- Defending class actions regarding claimed contamination from the agricultural chemical atrazine.
- Assisting with the acquisition of sixty different parcels and bank financing of seller’s agronomy and seed business.
- Acting as outside general counsel for inventor of diet food product manufacturer and distributor for his companies, primarily involving intellectual property issues.
- Counseling one of the largest U.S. supermarket chains on product recall issues.
- Representing one of the largest fish companies on the East Coast and also worked with a foreign owned start-up company in the fish distribution business.
- Advising on multiple venture capital financings and intellectual property/patent protection, for a company engaged in scientific and commercial development of products for preventing fungal infections in plants, plant products, and animals.
- Counseling a food packaging manufacturer on product recall issues and litigation threats related to the alleged contamination of baby formula.
- Representing the minority stockholders of a multi-store regional supermarket chain, including renegotiation of charter documents and stockholder agreements, as well as the successful offering and sale of the chain to an international supermarket operator.
- Representing a national café franchise in all manner of franchising, corporate, trademark, employment and litigation work.
- Developing a national distribution plan and documentation for client in the snack food industry.
- Structuring a revolving credit to finance fishing operations, secured by inventory, accounts, clam allocations and fishing vessels and permits.
- Restructuring loans to a multi-state nursery and greenhouse operator, secured by real estate in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, South Carolina, Florida and Quebec.
For an extensive explanation of the key issues currently facing the spirits industry, please see our brochure on it, Spirits Industry Under Fire: What You Need to Know About Class Action Litigation.