NAD Recommends Kraft Discontinue Certain Claims Made on Packaging for Gevalia Kaffee Products, Following Starbucks Challenge

New York, NY – Jan. 31, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Kraft Foods discontinue advertising claims that suggest Kraft’s single-serve Gevalia Kaffee-brand coffees taste similar to certain single-serve coffees sold by Starbucks Corporation.

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

Starbucks took issue with the following express claims:

• “NEW!” If you like STARBUCKS Breakfast Blend try this!*”
• “NEW!” If you like STARBUCKS Caffe Verona try this!”
• “NEW!” If you like STARBUCKS House Blend try this!”

NAD also considered whether the claims, which appeared on product packaging, implied that Gevalia Kaffe flavors taste the same or similar to the Starbucks blends identified on Gevalia packages.

The NAD decision noted, by way of background, that Kraft markets the Tassimo single-cup brewing system and had until 2010 sold Starbucks brand “T-discs” – single-use coffee pods – for use with the Tassimo brewer. Starbucks, in its submission to NAD, said it terminated its contract with Kraft in November 2010.

Starbucks contended that the challenged advertising claims were part of the advertiser’s effort to retain customers who may have purchased the Tassimo system but could no longer purchase Starbucks T-discs and to induce new customers who favor Starbucks to use the Tassimo systems with Gevalia coffees by claiming on the packages of several Gevalia blends “If you like [a particular Starbucks blend] try this!”

The advertiser maintained packaging for Gevalia focused on encouraging target audiences, including consumers who may drink other brands of coffee, to try the Gevalia product. As part of this effort, Kraft said, it began using the “try this” claims on packaging for select blends of Gevalia coffee. Kraft argued that its claims do not say or suggest that the coffee is comparable to Starbucks or any other coffee brand. Instead, the claims simply communicate that Gevalia is a new alternative that consumers should try.

The issue before NAD was whether the language challenged by Starbucks was merely an invitation to try a Gevalia blend for the Tassimo system or an implied claim about the taste of the Gevalia blend compared to a Starbucks blend.

In reaching its decision, NAD reviewed evidence that included the results of a consumer survey and three taste tests commissioned by Starbucks. Following its examination of the evidence, NAD determined that the advertiser’s packaging claim, “If you like Starbucks [blend], try this!” conveyed the message that the Gevalia blend advertised tastes the same as, or similar to, the Starbucks blend identified. To avoid conveying an unsupported message of taste similarity, NAD recommended that the claim be modified or discontinued.

Kraft, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “disagrees with NAD’s conclusion that the ‘try this!’ claim conveys anything other than an invitation to users of the Tassimo single-serve beverage system to try the latest Gevalia coffee options. Nevertheless, Kraft, for various business reasons, has decided to replace the claims at issue in this challenge and will take NAD’s views into consideration in its advertising going forward.”