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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

STRENGTH SYSTEMS TO MODIFY "HIGH QUALITY, TOP POTENCY" CLAIMS for its sport nutritional supplements following a determination by the National Advertising Division of the Council for Better Business Bureaus (NAD) that the claims "have not been substantiated and are, therefore, inaccurate." NAD concluded that claims made by Strength Systems USA which ask: "What could be better than purchasing your favorite high quality, top potency nutritional supplements," are "across-the-board product potency claims" that have not been substantiated by the company. The Strength Systems claims were reviewed by NAD after a challenge by United Food and Fitness, according to June 3 NAD case report. Strength Systems, which handles product advertising in-house, had told NAD that "support for its claim of high potency can be found in its commitment to excellence," and attributed the potency of its products "to the quality of the raw materials that it uses," the case report states. Strength Systems also submitted to NAD "results of evaluations of certain product batches to verify the potency against label claims." NAD said in the case report that the data provided by Strength Systems "indicated an effort by the [firm] to exercise more quality control over its manufacturing process." In response to the NAD verdict, Strength Systems said it was "willing to modify our advertisements to ensure that use of such terms as 'high quality' and 'top potency' will be verifiable by quantitative and qualitative product assays." The firm vowed not to advertise products that "do not have a formidable, duplicate independent laboratory analysis available for the inspection of NAD should such a challenge rise again." Strength Systems also agreed to change statements such as "Strength Systems USA [is] long-known as the leader in quality nutritional products." Strength Systems defended its claim of market leadership by arguing that it has "been established in the sport supplement area for several years and has become known as a company for creating products directly competitive with currently marketed products." The claim of being a market leader, the firm argued, is substantiated by Strength Systems' "presence and authority in the marketplace, its dedicated following, and even by the fact that it was subject to this challenge," the case report related. NAD disagreed with the company's assertions, noting that a company hailing itself as a market leader "must show it is a forerunner in the industry" and demonstrate that it has "the greatest market share in the industry." NAD "found no such evidence" from materials submitted by Strength Systems. The company countered that there "are several different meanings" for the term "market leader" that "cannot be assessed accurately in quantitative terms." Strength Systems also is planning to discontinue the use of statements such as "select products from the world's largest variety of nutritional supplements" after NAD found no evidence to support that the firm "offers a product selection that surpasses all others worldwide." The company had asserted that, "although this claim might include puffery, it has merit based on [Strength Systems'] capability for specialized formulations for the consumer compared to the competition in the marketplace." The firm, however, agreed not to claim that is has the "world's largest variety" unless it can "quantitatively assure that such a statement is truthful and accurate." Two other claims reviewed by NAD were not found to be objectionable. For example, a claim that "all of our products are made of the highest quality materials" was defended by Strength Systems with sample reports of representative batch assays for some of the raw materials used in the supplements. Another statement -- "whether you desire to lose weight, gain weight, increase endurance, pack on muscle or just need a convenient nutritious snack . . ." -- was found by NAD to be "product descriptive and did not rise to the level of a performance claim." Apart from specific promotional claims, NAD concluded that Strength Systems should discontinue using references that are "based on untested nutrient levels." United Food and Fitness had charged that Strength Systems' products do not contain the levels of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients that are listed on the label. United Food and Fitness provided NAD with a published analysis that revealed that Strength Systems' Amino product claimed to have 1,900 mg of an ingredient but only had 550 mg; a 1,600 mg version of Amino was found to contain only 104 mg. The challenger noted that the industry standard allows a deviation of +/-5% of the level listed on the label. Strength Systems also told NAD that it is making an effort to improve manufacturing and label standards via its membership in the National Nutritional Foods Association's "Trulabel" program, a self-policing body that randomly tests products to ensure label values are being met. Strength Systems questioned the data provided by United Food and Fitness on the basis that those results could not be duplicated by independent laboratory tests. NAD also addressed superlative claims that appeared in advertising for Strength Systems' products, such as "the big, bigger, biggest weight gain product ever made," and the "highest calorie anabolic weight gain system ever made." Strength Systems explained that "in comparison to other weight gain products containing less than one gram of fat, its product does contain the most calories per gram in relation to nutrient capacity." according to NAD. The company also asserted that "it is impossible for a product to contain more calories per gram or serving based on the ingredients and serving size." NAD agreed that the superlative claims are a "direct, descriptive reference to the caloric content of the product," and the challenger presented no data to counter that finding, the case report states.

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