One issue with the gummy delivery form has always been the amount of bioactives the gummies contain and how well that compares to other, more highly concentrated delivery forms. Church & Dwight said its claim was backed by research done in 2018 that demonstrated that the Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 in its gummies was absorbed in a ‘bioequivalent’ manner to that of Nature Made brand tablet vitamins.
“We wanted to scientifically prove, for the first time, that the #1 gummy vitamin brand, vitafusion, was ‘bioequivalent’ to more traditional delivery vehicles, namely pills and tablets,” Annahita Ghassemi, Church & Dwight’s director of global R&D said at the time of the initial publication of that data. “Bioequivalence, in this case, simply means that two vitamins with identical active ingredients administered at the same dose but in different delivery forms possess similar bioavailability and produce the same effect.”
The initial ruling was made by the National Advertising Division in the complaint brought by Pharmavite (manufacturer of Nature Made). NAD ruled that the research did not back Church & Dwight's claim, a ruling the company chose to appeal.
Appeals board backs initial ruling
In the initial ruling NAD did not challenge the results of Church & Dwight’s research, but noted that those results applied specifically to vitamins C and D3. In NAD’s view, consumers were left to infer that the research applied to all of the ingredients in the gummies.
In addition, Pharmavite had raised some issues with the dosages (much higher than what is used in the consumer products) used in some of the research that Church & Dwight submitted to support its claim.
“NAD determined that the vitamin C and D3 studies were not a good fit to support the messages reasonably conveyed by the advertiser's ‘clinically proven absorption’ claim and recommended that it be discontinued,” the ruling concluded.
The National Advertising Review Board, which could be likened to an appeals court, stood up the initial NAD panel ruling. The board said that Church & Dwight’s research did not quantify how much Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 was actually absorbed, which would have been a crucial element to support the ‘clincally proven absorption’ claim. Both NARB and NAD are part of the Better Business Bureau's National Programs.
Church & Dwight raises fairness issues
Church & Dwight, for its part, said while it disagrees with the ruling, it will comply and remains “strongly committed to the self regulatory process.”
Nevertheless, the company alleges the process was unfair, in particular because it alleges Pharmavite was allowed to raise some technical issues concerning the Church & Dwight research late in the process in a way that obviated a response.
Church & Dwight said it “does not feel it received a fair process or result either before NAD or NARB.” According to Church & Dwight, it “appealed to NARB not only because it believed NAD’s decision was wrong on the merits, but also because it resulted from an unfair process.”