Two reports from the U.S. confirm the gradual introduction of new nutritional standards in a country that - unlike Europe – does not yet dispose of a clearcut definition of the "health" and "nutrition" claims that brands could put forward.
- The Federal Trade Commission has launched an official investigation of the brand POM, in order to determine whether its advertisements are not misleading ("violated federal law by making deceptive claims, disease prevention and treatment"): in fact POM claims that its pomegranate-based drinks and dietary supplements have health benefits (against prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, heart problems...) because of the antioxidants contained in the fruit. POM has created a dedicated website: www.pomegranatetruth.com, and is carrying on a very aggressive campaign claiming scientific proof of its assertions: "All statements made in connection with POM products are true and supported by unprecedented scientific research". This complaint comes in the wake of a warning from the FDA a few months ago ... It was addressed to 17 brands and groups, including Nestle and Kellogg's. The latter, according to the Wall Street Journal of 27 September preferred to come to an agreement with the FDA and the FTC and abandon their claims.
- Called into question by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (the most important private American consumer protection institution in matters of nutrition), Ben & Jerry's (owned by Unilever) decided to remove the words "All Natural" from its packaging. A letter sent a month ago to the brand shows that 48 references used this expression unjustifiably. The major interest of this exchange of letters lies in the willingness of the CSPI to propose a definition of "natural" - since the regulations do not offer one. You can find these letters by following this link. Clearly the brand - which had built itself on an "authentic" positioning - viewed this demand as a potential threat and chose the "lesser evil".
The speed of the decision taken by Unilever, akin to the choices made by Nestlé and Kellogg's, clearly shows that large groups are now aware of the question of nutrition and the consequences that they could have on their image resulting from repeated attacks by consumer lobbies, and now the federal authorities, against their claims of "health" and "nutrition" or even claims of "naturalness".
I see this having several consequences:
- We will be seeing a major clean-up of recipes and packaging in the U.S.A. in the coming months.
- The actors in the beauty sector will be obliged to ask the same questions under pressure from militant groups ... and consumers: a number of brands are already "getting rid of" the most risky ingredients from their formulas...
- All this explains Nestlé's new strategy which I will talk about next week ....