NAD Finds New World Pasta Can Support Whole-Grain Claims Challenged by Barilla

New York, NY – Sept. 18, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has determined that New World Pasta (NWP), the maker of Ronzoni pasta products, can support “whole grains” claims made for the company’s “Healthy Harvest Pasta.” The claims were challenged by Barilla America, Inc., a competing maker of pasta products.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Barilla challenged claims made in website, print and email advertising and by in-store shelf talkers. The challenged claims included:

  •  “Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Pasta” has 2x the whole grain as the leading brand.”
  •  “Both are whole grain. But only one is 100 % whole grain.”
  •  “One of these has 100% whole grain. Can you tell which one?”
  •  “These pasta dishes make look the same, but Ronzoni Healthy Harvest is made with 100% whole grain so each serving provides 56 grams. That’s twice as much as Barilla Whole Grain which has only 28 grams.”

NAD also examined whether the advertising at issue implied that Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Pasta provides twice as much dietary fiber per serving as Barilla Whole Grain Pasta.

Barilla contended that comparative claims made by NWP for Healthy Harvest, a 100 percent whole grain pasta, were misleading and falsely disparaged Barilla’s competing pasta, a product that contains 51 percent whole grains and is high in dietary fiber. Barilla contended that Healthy Harvest’s whole-grain claims misleadingly implied that it is higher in fiber than Barilla’s pasta.

In this case, it was undisputed that NWP is permitted, pursuant to Food and Drug Administration regulations, to claim that Healthy Harvest is an “excellent source” of fiber. At the same time, an implied “higher in fiber” claim would not be supported, as Barilla’s whole grain pasta has six grams of dietary fiber per serving, compared to five grams of dietary fiber per serving of Healthy Harvest.

Barilla sought to present evidence of consumer confusion in the marketplace, including a 2009 study that examined consumer perceptions of the relationship between whole grains and fiber. The article concluded that consumers have a poor understanding of the role of whole grains in delivering fiber and that the terms “fiber and whole grain may be synonymous” to consumers.

NAD determined that there was no evidence in the record that consumers interpreted Healthy Harvest’s comparative whole-grain claims as conveying a message that the product is higher in fiber than Barilla’s product.

NAD also determined that, to the extent that Healthy Harvest’s whole grain claims implied a “high in dietary fiber” message, that message was supported.

NWP, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company appreciated “NAD’s careful and thorough review of the issues involved in this case, as well as the opportunity to work with NAD and participate in the self-regulatory process.”