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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

ROSS LABS' ENSURE NUTRITIONAL LIQUID "#1 RECOMMENDED" CLAIMS ARE VALID, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) ruled April 14. Following a consumer inquiry about whether Ross Laboratories could substantiate its "recommended #1 by doctors" claim in magazine print ads for its Ensure and Ensure Plus nutritional liquids, NAD determined "that the '#1 recommended' claim" is "substantiated" based on results of a market research study conducted by the company. The Ensure brands are handled by New York City ad agency, LCF&L, and are targeted to the older adult population. The Abbott division provided NAD with results of a market research survey of "1,811 doctors across the country (divided equally among family practitioners, general practitioners, and internal medicine physicians) who saw at least 50 or more older patients per week," according to a NAD case report. Ensure products "were recommended significantly more than any other adult nutritional products," NAD found. In addition, a review of the National Disease and Therapeutic Index (NDTI) on category/brand recommendations by physicians "showed at least twice as many mentions for Ensure than any other such products," and an NDTI audit of the treatment of disease/prescribing patterns of office-based doctors in private practice "confirmed more than twice as many recommendations for Ensure," NAD summarized in the case report. NAD also determined that Ross' claim that "you get more nutrition in less volume than other nutritional supplements," which has appeared in Ensure Plus print ads, "should be modified to more clearly indicate that the difference is between the regular- and high-caloric density product categories, and not between Ensure Plus and all other adult nutritional supplements." Noting that the market for nutritional supplements "appears to be split into two subcategories of regular- and high-caloric density products," NAD said that information provided by Ross "clearly showed that Ensure Plus is a high caloric density liquid and thus that less is needed to achieve a desired result." However, "there are several other high caloric density products as well," NAD explained in the case report, suggesting that "the claim be modified to clarify that the comparison is between regular- and high-caloric density formulations rather than the perhaps unintended exclusivity claim which compares the amount of Ensure Plus that is required will all other supplements." Ross agreed to modify that claim. Ross had submitted nutritional analysis information pointing out that Ensure Plus "has a caloric density of 1.5 calories/ml as compared to most other nutritional supplements where the caloric density is 1 calorie/ml," and therefore "takes less Ensure Plus than most others to achieve the same" U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances, the case report says. The consumer inquiry also questioned Ross' claims that Ensure is "nutritionally complete. It gives you what you need in place of a meal or added nutrition between meals." In response, Ross Labs argued to NAD that Ensure ads "make the point that, despite the importance of doing so, not everyone eats as they should . . . When properly viewed in context, the statement 'It gives you what you need in place of a meal or added nutrition between meals' plainly contemplates consumers using Ensure products as a nutritional source for those intermittent circumstances when regular foods are not being eaten." The ads "in no way suggest that consumers ought to stop eating and drink Ensure instead," Ross declared. Ross also submitted information to NAD showing that: "good nutrition is a problem in the overall health and well-being of the elderly"; Ensure "contains all the nutrients listed by the National Academy of Science/National Research Council in its Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) table and that when consumed on the basis of calories, Ensure meets or exceeds the amounts recommended on the table"; and Ensure meets the definition of "nutritionally complete" per an FDA definition. NAD agreed that the nutritional claims were substantiated.

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