The “About us” section of the website for Appy Food & Drinks’ range of juice drinks for children, www.appykidsco.com, seen in July 2016, included the claim “we ONLY make 100% natural, tasty and healthy products”.
The complainant, a food law consultant who understood that some of the advertiser’s products contained calcium lactate and glucose-fructose syrup, challenged whether the claim that all of the advertiser’s products were “100% natural” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Appy Food & Drinks Ltd (Appy) stated that calcium lactate was a salt obtained through a natural fermentation process with lactic acid bacteria, and occurred naturally in dairy products. It was widely used to make yoghurt and other products.
They said that glucose-fructose syrup was obtained through hydrolysis of the starch contained within corn using an enzyme, a biological catalyst that could be found in the natural world. They therefore believed that the calcium lactate and glucose-fructose syrup used in their products had been obtained using natural processes. Appy provided product specifications for both substances at their point of manufacture.
The ASA considered that consumers would likely understand the claim “we ONLY make 100% natural … products” to mean that the ingredients in Appy’s products had only undergone limited processing. We referred to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) “Criteria for the use of the terms fresh, pure, natural etc. in food labelling”, revised July 2008, which was based on research into consumer understanding of the term “natural”. The guidance stated "the term ‘natural’ without qualification should be used ... to describe single foods, of a traditional nature, to which nothing has been added and which have been subjected only to such processing as to render them suitable for human consumption". We noted that the product was not a single food. The guidance further stated “Compound foods (i.e. foods made from more than one ingredient) should not themselves be described directly or by implication as ‘natural’, but it is acceptable to describe such foods as ‘made from natural ingredients’ if all the ingredients meet the criteria”.
We reviewed the information about the production processes for the ingredients used in Appy’s products. We noted that glucose-fructose syrup was produced by the addition of an enzyme isomerase to cornstarch. We understood that this was a non-traditional enzymatic treatment and therefore fell outside of the definition of “natural” in the FSA guidelines.
We noted that calcium lactate occurred naturally in some foods and was used as an additive for its antioxidant properties. The advertiser had provided a general description of how calcium lactate was obtained and a laboratory analysis of different substances contained within the product. We did not consider that this constituted sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the manufacturing of this ingredient complied with consumer expectations of foods described as “natural”.
Because Appy’s juice drinks were not “single foods”, we considered that the term “natural” should not be used without qualification to describe them, whether individually or as an entire range. Furthermore, two of the ingredients used in Appy’s product range also fell outside the permitted processes in the FSA guidance on natural as they applied to individual ingredients of compound foods, and we therefore considered they did not comply with consumer expectations of foods described as “natural”. For those reasons, we concluded that the claim “we ONLY make 100% natural … products” had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear in again in the form complained about. We told Appy Food & Drinks Ltd not to claim their products were “100% natural” unless they were in line with consumer expectations of the term "natural" and they held supporting evidence for their claims.