The advert, which was broadcast in July 2008, was for the company’s follow-on formula, Nurture and included a voice-over stating that a baby needed a "special combination of nutrients to sustain the incredible growth in its brain, body and immune system,” with the Heinz formula developed to "provide for those three essential aspects of growth" by helping to "nourish, protect and develop your baby.”
The ASA concluded that Heinz's advert strategy implied a specific health benefit from the use of Nurture and as it was broadcast following the new Regulation 1924/2006/EC on health claims and nutrition for foods, the evidence submitted by the advertiser was not sufficiently robust to support the product’s claims in relation to children’s immunity and development:
“We concluded, therefore, that the claim was unsubstantiated and the ad was unacceptable,” stated the voluntary watchdog.
A spokesperson for the ASA told NutraIngredients that it took 18 months to reach a ruling in the case due to its complexity, and the fact that due process had to take place as a result of there being the EC regulatory aspect to consider.
“The ruling is a benchmark for future advertising in relation to the whole infant baby food sector. As a result of our thorough examination of this particular case, we hope that we can solve other cases of a similar nature more speedily,” he added.
Heinz, in defence of the advert, said that the claims for Nurture were based on the formula’s milk protein for growth and calcium for healthy teeth and bones in line with the compositional criteria for protein laid down in Commission Directive 2006/14/EC on Infant and Follow-on Formula.
The 'protect' claim came from constituents including iron, prebiotics and nucleotides that protect the immune system; and 'develop' came from the inclusion of omega-3 and omega-6, which helped brain and eye development.
Heinz, said that although the ‘protect’ claim had not been in use prior to the introduction of the Regulation, they believed it was appropriate for use during the transitional period and prior to a decision on its authorisation being made because in its view it described a general, non-specific benefit of the product.
The watchdog argued that, according to the requirements of the Regulation, only claims under children’s development and health that had been in compliance with national provisions before 19 January 2007 could be used during the transitional period, and thus only claims in relation to omega-3 and children’s development had been in accordance with UK national provisions prior to January 2007.