Sweet court victory for top German chocolate bar maker

BERLIN Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:58pm EST

BERLIN Jan 13 (Reuters) - Leading German chocolate brand Ritter Sport won a court battle on Monday against the country's respected consumer protection group in a messy dispute over whether its hazelnut chocolate bars contain artificial or natural vanilla flavour.

The row erupted in November when the protection group, Stiftung Warentest, claimed in a consumer protection report that the vanilla used in Ritter Sport hazelnut chocolate bars was artificially enhanced.

Chocolate maker Alfred Ritter took the group to court and the case made headlines in Germany when a Munich state court ordered the group to stop claiming the vanilla in the bars - distinct for their dark green wrapping - was not natural.

Ritter is one of Germany's biggest chocolate makers, producing 2.5 million bars a day which are sold in a number of different flavours and distinguished by their different coloured wrapping papers, unchanged since 1932. The square bars were originally designed to fit inside the pocket of a sports jacket.

The independent Stiftung Warentest, one of the country's most respected institutes alongside the Bundesbank, said on Monday it would appeal the ruling, which stipulates that the group must pay a 250,000 euro fine if it repeats the claim. (Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Monica Raymunt; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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