Splenda ad dispute moves a step forward

Related tags Mcneil nutritionals Sucralose Splenda

The dispute between the sugar industry and McNeil Nutritionals
advanced a small step this week when a federal court in Los Angeles
ruled that the Sugar Association can continue its claim into
whether McNeil's Splenda campaign is misleading, reports
Philippa Nuttall.

The US district court of Central California ruled that the Sugar Association had the right to continue its research into whether the Splenda campaign is deceptive with its slogan, "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar"​, misleading consumers into thinking the artificial sweetener was "natural".

If the industry body does - as it is sure it will - find proof of deceptive advertising it will no doubt seek corrective advertising from McNeil Nutritionals or some sort of apology from the firm saying it has mislead the American consumer.

However, until if and when this does happen, McNeil Nutritionals will remain committed to giving consumers the right information they need to help them manage their sugar intake, according to Monica Neufang, the spokeswoman for the company.

"There are more and more examples of obesity affecting people's lifestyle and Splenda is just one tool that customers have to reduce their calorific intake,"​ she told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.

"Our research shows that our consumers understand that Splenda is a no-cal sweetener,"​ she added.

However, she refused to comment on whether McNeil would be making any changes to its advertising campaign, saying she was "not in a position"​ to provide such information.

The court also ruled that the Sugar Association is not able to say formally that sugar growers have been economically harmed by the advertising campaign. Instead, member companies of the association would need to bring claims on their own behalf if they want to seek money damages.

The body believes that: "It is clear that thousands of sugar growers in the United States are suffering financially because of consumer confusion thinking Splenda is natural"​.

The Sugar Association first filed a lawsuit in December against McNeil Nutritionals, which hinged on "deceptive and/or misleading representations"​, made by the sweetener firm in "advertisements and marketing terminology"​.

Previous to this, Merisant, the US maker of tabletop sweetener Equal and NutraSweet and a competitor to Splenda, had alleged in November that the product's marketing slogan, "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar"​, had mislead consumers into thinking the artificial sweetener was "natural"​.

McNeil Nutritionals asserts that sucralose starts off as pure cane sugar, and is then chemically altered in the manufacturing process to create a new compound with zero calories and 600 times sweeter than sugar.

A currently booming market for the Splenda product may, or may not, feel the impact of the US court cases.

"From our perspective, whatever the outcome of the litigation, sucralose will still be made from sugar, and still taste like sugar,"​ a spokesperson at Tate and Lyle, that manufactures the Splenda brand, said in December.

Market analysts Freedonia predict growth of intensity sweeteners at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81m in 1998 to $189m in 2008.

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