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CARNATION GOOD START INFANT FORMULA "GENTLE" CLAIM IS SUBSTANTIATED

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

CARNATION GOOD START INFANT FORMULA "GENTLE" CLAIM IS SUBSTANTIATED based on a study conducted by Chandra, et al. that indicated the product is "easily digestible," the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said June 11 ("The Tan Sheet" June 14, In Brief). According to NAD, the results of the Chandra study in high-risk infants "seemed to indicate that the babies in the study had fewer signs of allergic response." The NAD inquiry into Carnation's claims for Good Start and Follow-Up infant formula products was in response to a complaint from Bristol-Myers Squibb subsidiary Mead Johnson, which markets Enfamil and ProSobee infant formulas. Mead's primary objections to the advertising revolved around claims pertaining to the partial hydrolyzation of the mild protein in Good Start and whether this substantiated claims that the product was "gentler," NAD said. In a response to NAD, Carnation cited several sources that "somewhere between 1% and 27% of all babies have an allergic response to milk protein," NAD said. "When whole protein creates a problem in infancy, it is because it enters the bloodstream undigested," Carnation said in explaining why the partial hydrolyzation of the proteins in Good Start "should be of increased benefit." NAD said it was not provided with evidence of how consumers or the two companies interpret the word "gentle" in the context of the ad. Consequently, NAD said it reviewed the ad and "determined that it referred to the product's ability -- which results from the special processing -- to be easily digestible." In the absence of any consumer perception data "to the contrary," NAD found the claim to be substantiated. In addition to the "gentle" claim for Good Start, Mead Johnson objected to two claims for Follow-Up: that the product is "the only formula made especially for older babies eating solid foods"; and that the product "offers complete nutrition . . . plus the advantages of fresh taste, convenience and everyday savings." Mead also questioned whether Carnation could refer to its products as "leading" formulas given their relatively small market share. The only claims that NAD asked Carnation to modify were the descriptions of the products as "leading" formulas since Good Start and Follow-Up hold 1.8% and 3.4% of the market, respectively, compared to Mead's Enfamil with a 22.8% share and Ross Labs' Similac with a 34.8% share. Pointing out that FDA requires every infant formula to be nutritionally suitable for all infants, Mead asserted that Follow- Up was no more nutritional for babies aged six-to-12 months than any other infant formula that complied with FDA regulations. However, NAD agreed with Carnation's evidence that because the formula contained "adjusted" amounts of protein and calcium, two nutrients the company maintained infants do not receive enough of once they start eating solid food, the claim is "literally true and, therefore, is substantiated." NAD added, however, that the claim's truthfulness "does not necessarily mean that Follow-Up is nutritionally superior to other formulas; merely that it is different." Regarding what Mead alleged to be a superiority claim based on nutrition, taste and convenience, NAD concluded that Carnation's "advertising did convey a superiority/advantage claim for Follow- Up on the combination of attributes, i.e., Follow-Up is superior because it costs less while providing equal nutrition, convenience and taste." NAD determined that the claim was substantiated since Follow-Up is less expensive than Mead's regular formulas and does provide the same convenience and nutritional levels as Mead's products. Commenting on NAD's conclusions, Carnation said it is "pleased that NAD has found that all major product claims in question are fully supported." However, Carnation's ad agency for the infant formulas, McCann-Erickson, noted that the "only area of disagreement is whether . . . Good Start and Follow-Up are 'leading' formulas. Although Carnation continues to believe that they are, we are happy to support the self-regulatory process by implementing in our advertising the minor modification recommended in NAD's case report."

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