The National Advertising Division (NAD) ruled earlier this month that Heartland Sweeteners should not advertise its Ideal sweetener as “natural” or “more than 99 per cent natural” because much of its sweetness comes from an artificial sweetener.
The advertising watchdog took up the case after receiving a complaint from Merisant Company, a rival to Heartland in the sweetener market.
Merisant pointed out that all major artificial sweeteners use corn-based bulking agents that mean that artificial high-intensity sweeteners actually make up a small percentage of the final products. And Ideal is no exception, as it contains the artificial sweetener sucralose.
Heartland admitted that Ideal does indeed contain sucralose, but contented that the natural sweetener Xylitol was its main ingredient.
This was not good enough for the NAD, which decided that it was not accurate for heartland to advertise its product as being “natural” or even “99 per cent natural”.
While the 99 per cent claim may be literally true, the NAD said the context made the statement misleading.
The watchdog considered it to be significant that 80 per cent of the Ideal sweetness actually comes from artificial sources. This, the NAD said, makes the natural claim misleading especially when consumers are seeking non-artificial low calorie sweeteners.
Heartland founder and CEO Ted Gelov told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the company intends to appeal against the ruling. Gelov said the NAD had “got it wrong completely” and that Heartland advertising claims are entirely accurate.
He said the allegation that 80 per cent of the sweetness in the Ideal product comes from artificial sources is oversimplified, and that the natural sweetener Xylitol provides all of the initial sweetness. Sucralose has a delayed effect and only comes into play on the palette later.
In a statement, Heartland added: “The NAD ruling is factually unsupported and may have dramatic and unintended adverse consequences for the market for non-sugar sweeteners.”
Heartland is confident of winning but even if the appeal is unsuccessful the company is not obliged to change its advertising claims as the rulings of the NAD has no powers of enforcement. It operates under a voluntary self-regulation remit.