Zarbee’s manufactures supplements primarily aimed at immune support that include ingredients such as honey and elderberry. In addition the company offers sleep support products based on melatonin as well as a multivitamin line.
Zarbee’s claims were challenged by competitor Procter & Gamble. In the NAD ruling made public today, Zarbee’s was recommended to cease certain claims centering on the ‘naturalness’ of its ingredients.
Does the name ‘Naturals’ mean everything in the bottle is natural?
NAD said that the question of whether the vitamins and melatonin used in the products are chemically equivalent to their natural counterparts was not at issue. What P&G asserted was that a product sold under the ‘Zarbees Naturals’ brand name would be assumed by consumers to contain all natural ingredients.
NAD recommends that Zarbee’s alters its marketing to (1) alert consumers when some or all of the essential or key ingredients used in its products are not naturally derived, with sufficient specificity to allow consumers to understand which ingredients in individual products are not naturally derived, and (2) otherwise disclose the meaning of the word ‘natural’ with respect to its products.
The use of synthetically produced vitamins is widespread in the supplement industry. The vast majority of vitamin C, for example, is synthesized in China by a handful of suppliers.
No justification for ingredient choices
The statement issued by NAD said that Zarbee’s had made a reasonable case why it used synthetic melatonin in its products. In other cases, however the panel decreed that Zarbee’s existing marketing had implied that natural ingredients were used in every case unless there was no alternative to using a synthetic ingredient.
“The advertiser did not provide NAD with any evidence that it only used synthetic ingredients in its products when it was not possible to use natural ingredients,” NAD said.
In a statement, Zarbee’s Naturals said it “disagrees but will comply with NAD’s ruling.” The company went on to say, “We do not believe our use of ‘Naturals’ is confusing to consumers. Rather, it helps to distinguish our products from those that contain man-made chemical sleep aids, cough suppressants, etc. Nevertheless, we support the self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in our future advertising.”
Attorney Ivan Wasserman, of the firm Amin Talati Wasserman, said Zarbee’s Naturals is a major firm and the ruling could have implications for natural claims throughout the industry.
“This is an extremely important case in the continuing evolution of ‘natural’ jurisprudence, and indeed other vague terms such as ‘plant derived.’ When we are before the NAD or the courts, it is so important to be able to show that when a term is used we made efforts to ensure that consumers understand what it means in relation to the product, such as when the term may not apply to the key ingredient. While that effort may occupy valuable real estate on the label, in the ad, in the social media post or wherever, it is very important. As the great American author Stanley Elkin famously said: ‘I don't believe less is more. I believe that more is more. I believe that less is less, fat fat, thin thin and enough is enough,’” Wasserman said.
Zarbee’s Naturals did respond in time for publication for a request for additional comment on the NAD ruling.