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Ice cream suppliers sue Trader Joe's

Two ice cream suppliers have filed suit against Trader Joe’s, saying the specialty retailer dropped them as suppliers then coerced other vendors to stop working with them.

The case, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Natural Dairy Products and Dairy Smart Inc., alleges that Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s coerced product suppliers and manufacturers to get companies to cancel contracts with NDP and Dairy Smart. Grievances in the complaint include intentional interference with contractual relations; unjust enrichment; breach of contract; and acting in bad faith.

Natural Dairy Products is based in California and is not affiliated with a Delaware-based dairy supplier under the same name.

"Our clients helped build Trader Joe's ice cream products which generated tremendous revenues for the grocer," attorney Ricardo Echeverria said in a statement. "Once TJ's decided it would be more profitable doing business without Natural Dairy Products and Dairy Smart they purposefully railroaded their business relationships."

A Trader Joe’s spokeswoman said the company does not comment on lawsuits.

NDP as a company had been doing business with TJ's since 2005 and with its principals for more than 30 years, attorneys for the plaintiffs said. NDP helped Trader Joe's obtain better products from ice cream manufacturers. Dairy Smart acted as a broker for TJ's for dairy products including yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter. Trader Joe's stopped doing business with these companies in March of 2013.

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