Coke defends omega-3 superjuice ads

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nad, Advertising

Coca-Cola has defended a television advert for a DHA-fortified superjuice, saying the advert used humor to imply general brain benefits that were construed as being more specifically memory-boosting by the voluntary advertising watchdog.

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) found that TV ads for the product, Minute Maid Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored 100% Juice Blend, made memory boosting claims not supported by the available science.

In response Coke said it was pleased the NAD had backed its claim that the product could, "help nourish your brain"​ in line with accepted structure/function claims for DHA and other ingredients in the product.

But in regard to the memory-boosting section of the ad NAD objected to, Coke said: “We believe our commercial communicated, in a humorous fashion, that the product is fortified with nutrients that help support brain health – a message NAD has found is supported by the record not an implied message that healthy adults will achieve an immediate and perceptible memory boost from drinking our product.”

While NAD took issue with the advert, it had no problem with Coke’s other “brain nourishing” ​marketing materials, which Coke said it had no plans to change.

Each 8oz serving of the product contains 50mg of DHA.

NAD said Coke’s TV advert may have employed humor but that did not, ”relieve an advertiser of its obligation to support claims conveyed in its advertising and concluded that the evidence in the record did not support the implied claim that a one-time or short-term ‘boost’ of the advertised DHA-containing juice would have an immediate and perceptible effect on memory. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the challenged commercial."

NAD also observed that one of the studies referenced by Coke to back its claims had its participants taking 900mg of DHA per day, the equivalent of 18 servings of the juice, and that at any rate, the study did not show a memory benefit.

"Much of the evidence on DHA regards DHA’s effect of reducing the risk of neurological diseases, age-related memory decline, and mental illness,"​ it said.

Pretty successful

Responding to the NAD verdict, the executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED), Adam Ismail, highlighted the fact the verdict backed DHA’s ability to support brain health.

“The decision supports the science behind DHA and its role in brain health, which has recently been recognized by a number of regulatory and scientific groups including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),”​ he said.

“This product is pretty successful and they have proven that brain health benefits are demanded by consumers, so it is positive to see an NAD endorsement of these claims and the importance of ongoing intake.”

Coke said adverts for the product, launched in September, 2007, had been discontinued some time ago, as they had run their course, but NAD spokesperson, Linda Bean, said this was irrelevant to its rulings, which dealt with principles, not timings.

Arizona-based beverage specialist, Jim Tonkin, of Healthy Brand Builders, wondered why agencies like NAD, along with the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, did not spend more of their time and resources going after, “other ‘flagrant mis-claims’ that are apparent all over the market”.

A summary of the NAD ruling, which Coke said it would not appeal, can be found here​.

The product also contained choline, Vitamins B12, C and E and glucose.

The Washington DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) recently agreed to continue a program with NAD until 2014.

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