NAD Recommends French’s Food Modify, Discontinue Challenged ‘High-Fructose’ Claims Made in Comparative Context Following Challenge by Heinz

New York, NY – Aug. 29, 2016 – The National Advertising Division has determined that a television commercial made by French’s Food Company for French’s Ketchup conveyed the unsupported and falsely disparaging message that Heinz original ketchup, a competing ketchup brand made with high-fructose corn syrup, is less healthy or less suitable for consumption than the French’s product.

NAD found, however, that the commercial did not convey the message that the entire line of Heinz Ketchup products contain high fructose corn syrup. The Heinz Organic and the Heinz Simply Ketchups are made without high fructose corn syrup.

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 Kraft Heinz Company, maker of competing Heinz Ketchup products, challenged express claims that included:

  • “Free from high fructose corn syrup”
  • “French’s has no high fructose corn syrup”
  • “Taste the Difference!”
  • “French’s: We promise real ingredients”
  • “French’s: only real ingredients”

NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that the complete line of Heinz Ketchup products contains high fructose corn syrup, that French’s Ketchup is preferred in taste over other competing ketchups, that Heinz Ketchup products are made from artificial ingredients or that ketchup without high fructose corn syrup is better and healthier than ketchup containing high fructose corn syrup.

NAD has noted in previous decisions the importance of allowing advertisers to distinguish their products in the marketplace. Further, NAD recognizes that advertisers have the right to openly compare their products to competing products, provide consumers with factual information and make truthful and accurate advertising claims, even at the expense of competitors.

However, denigrating claims must be truthful, accurate and narrowly drawn and may not falsely disparage a competitor’s product. NAD must carefully balance the rights of both the advertiser and the challenger.

The commercial at issue in this case featured a child who brought his own French’s Ketchup to a friend’s house, stating: “I promised my mom I would stay off high-fructose corn syrup.”

A voiceover later stated: “Moms know best … French’s has no high fructose corn syrup … French’s … only real ingredients.”

It was undisputed that the advertiser’s product does not contain high-fructose corn syrup. However, NAD determined that the context in which the product distinction was promoted reasonably conveyed the unsupported and falsely disparaging message that the challenger’s original ketchup, which does contain high-fructose corn syrup, was less healthy.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim in the challenged context or modify the claim sufficiently to avoid the implication that ketchup without high-fructose corn syrup is better and healthier than ketchup containing high-fructose corn syrup.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the use of the slogans “We promise real ingredients” and “French’s: only real ingredients,” in the challenged comparative context.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim “Taste the Difference!” as presented at its website or sufficiently modify the claim so as to avoid the implication that its product is superior in taste to its competitor’s product or that its French’s Ketchup is superior in taste due to the absence of high-fructose corn syrup.

Finally, NAD concluded that the challenged commercial did not reasonably convey a line claim comparing French’s tomato ketchup to the entire line of Heinz tomato ketchup products.

French’s Food Company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that as a “strong supporter of NAD and the self-regulatory process,” the company would follow NAD’s recommendations.

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.