A&W Lying About Its Soda Is Like Finding Out Santa Isn't Real

When you think of root beer, chances are you think of A&W. The soda has always appears on lists of the most popular root beer brands, and with a recipe that was originally created over 100 years ago, we have always looked to A&W as one of the original — and best — in the business. That sentiment only increased when they began to add the "Aged Vanilla" label to their cans and bottles. That smooth, delicious flavor must come from the aged vanilla, right?

Except, it doesn't congain aged vanilla. Three years ago a class action lawsuit was brought against A&W Concentrate Company and Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc., asserting that A&W root beer might not have this crucial ingredient. The recent opinion of the judge is that the plaintiffs” allegations are correct, and the company "misleadingly stated on the front of the products' labels that the beverages are "MADE WITH AGED VANILLA," even though the vanilla flavor comes predominantly — if not exclusively — from an artificial, synthetic ingredient called ethyl vanillin."

A settlement in the amount of $15 million has been preliminarily approved, which means anyone who purchased an A&W root beer or cream soda between February 7, 2016, and June 2, 2023, will be eligible to receive between $5.50 and $25, contingent on proof of purchase.

It's common for ethyl vanillin to be used as for vanilla flavoring

Vanillin is a chemical component of the vanilla bean, but due to the popularity of the flavor, there are not enough vanilla beans to satisfy demand, so a synthesized version was created. Ethyl vanillin, the actual flavoring ingredient used in A&W sodas instead of "aged vanilla," is described by the National Library of Medicine as having a "more intense vanilla odor and taste than vanillin."

A&W started in 1919 as a Lodi, California, root beer stand to welcome returning World War I soldiers. Once founder Roy Allen realized how profitable selling root beer could be, he joined Frank Wright to create A&W. They slowly began expanding, and by 1925, A&W was the United States' first franchise restaurant chain. Today, A&W restaurants are a separate entity from the soda company and are not involved in the class action lawsuit.

"A&W Restaurants, Inc. is a privately owned and operated company separate from Keurig Dr. Pepper," an A&W Restaurants spokesperson told TODAY in an email. "The Root Beer served in our restaurants is made fresh on-site and has a slightly different formulation [than] what is served in retail bottles and cans. We do not make any claims regarding vanilla in our restaurant marketing."