NAD Recommends Nurture Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘Happy Family’ Baby Food; Finds Advertiser Can Support Certain ‘Organic’ Claims

New York, NY – May 21, 2014   – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Nurture, Inc., the maker of Happy Family infant and toddler food products, modify or discontinue certain claims, including claims that state or imply that conventional or non-organic products are less nutritious, expose babies and toddlers to pesticides or contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs.) NAD did find, however, that the advertiser could continue its “organic superfoods,” “organic baby food,” and “always organic” claims.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The claims at issue in NAD’s review were challenged by Gerber Products Company and included:

  • “Developed by moms and pediatricians.”
  • “Happy Family products are consistently recognized for superior taste and nutrition.”
  • “Our products are truly enlightened [and] use the best ingredients nature has to offer . . . so babies are healthier.”
  • “Happy Family products do not contain any artificial colors or flavors, artificial additives, or artificial preservatives.”
  • “No GMOs.”
  • “Made in the USA.”

NAD also considered whether Nurture’s advertising implied that:

  • Happy Family products are “fresh” as opposed to “processed.”
  • The organic ingredients used in Happy Family products are superior to conventional ingredients used by competing brands.
  • Vegetables are the primary ingredient in many flavors of Happy Family products.
  • All of Happy Family products are organic.

A key issue in this case was whether the advertising at issue conveyed comparative superiority messages regarding the nutrition and safety of Nurture’s organic products, versus products made with conventionally grown produce.

NAD noted that the advertiser did not submit any testing or scientific studies which could reliably establish the existence of any hazardous level of pesticide in baby food made from conventionally grown produce.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims which state or imply that its organic products are safer for babies or that non-organic or conventional baby and toddler food products contain harmful pesticides.  NAD concluded, however, that the advertiser could continue its “organic superfoods,” “organic baby food,” and “always organic” claims.

In the absence of evidence demonstrating that organic Happy Family products are richer in nutrients than products made with conventionally grown produce, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the claim “[s]ome studies show that organic produce contains more antioxidants, particularly health-protective flavonoids … .”

With regard to the claim that Nurture avoids using high fructose corn syrup because “this concentrated sweetener, like other refined sugars, can lead to  . . . obesity,” NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim or modify it to reflect current scientific uncertainty on the link between high fructose corn syrup and obesity.

Regarding “non-GMO claims,” the challenger had argued that bioengineered produce is not commercially available in the United States and, as a result both organic and conventionally produced infant foods are “non-GMO.”

NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its “No GMOs” claims on fruit and vegetable products to more clearly reflect the results of its testing which confirmed that no genetically engineered ingredients were accidentally introduced during field production or in the supply chain.

NAD also examined the advertiser’s claim for Salba grain –“Our Happy Tot Plus pouches have the SALBA grain which is nature’s most nutritious grain.  Salba is the best whole food source of Omega 3’s and fiber and is very high in Protein, Antioxidants, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.” NAD recommended the advertiser modify the claim by deleting references to those nutrients which are present in amounts less than 10% of the daily recommended value in any Happy Tot Pouches.

NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for the claims that “We are moms, nutritionists, and pediatricians who come up with tasty ingredients using organic nutrition …” and “We work with pediatricians and nutritionists to develop our recipes … .”  NAD concluded that the claims that Happy Family is “made by loving moms like you,” “made with a mom’s love” and is “as delicious as homemade” did not convey an implied message that its products are “fresh” as opposed to “processed” like foods from other baby food manufacturers.

NAD found no evidence that Nurture’s product flavor variety names were confusing or misleading as to the type of fruit and vegetable combinations contained in those products or their nutritional attributes.

NAD determined that the advertiser’s claim that it uses “the best ingredients nature has to offer . . .” is puffery rather than a comparative superiority claim requiring substantiation.

Nurture, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company will take the NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.