The British firm’s national press advert for the supplement stated: "For women who are trying for a baby, zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction plus 20 nutrients including folic acid, vits B12, D. Part of the No.1 Pregnacare range."
At the bottom of the advert, text stated the supplement was the UK’s number one pregnancy brand and included an image showing a sperm entering an egg. The ad was headed: "Most trusted by mums Pregnacare conception".
Vitabiotics said the advert and information provided was intended to show that the product was meant for women planning to conceive a child, not that it could help them get pregnant.
In its ruling ASA concluded that the advert should not appear again in its current form because of the overall message it communicated to women. It also stated that the brand name itself, Pregnacare Conception, could be considered an implied health claim by EU definition.
While the company said the brand name indicated when the product was meant to be used, the agency wrote: “We considered the consumers to whom the ad was targeted would interpret the product name as implying a relationship between the supplement and health, specifically the process of normal healthy conception, and we therefore considered the product name made an implied health claim which must consequently be accompanied by a related authorised health claim.”
However it was concluded that the product name did not breach the advertising standards code, and would likely be acceptable in other contexts.
Trying to conceive?
ASA said it was not questioning the company's use of such authorised health claims as “zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction”, however it was concerned that the second part of the claim ("fertility and reproduction") had been highlighted by a larger, coloured text.
Overall, ASA said: “We considered that those aspects of the ad particularly, in combination with the product name and images of the sperm and egg and the smiling couple, resulted in an overall impression that the supplement could assist or increase the likelihood of conceiving, providing a 'boost' in fertility and reproduction to above-normal levels and thus playing a significant role in making any woman who took the product more likely to become pregnant.”
The company said the product followed guidelines from the UK Department of Health (DoH) on nutrients like folic acid for women trying to conceive. It said the DoH used the wording “trying to conceive” in its nutrient advice, but it was clear that it did not imply that folic acid would assist or increase the chances of conception.
Like the DoH’s use, it said it had used this wording to explain when its product was to be used. They also argued that “trying to conceive” was comparable to "trying for a baby", which they also used in the advertisement material.
ASA responded saying that such wording, as well as that referenced on the National Health Service (NHS) website, appeared in the context of advice on nutrients for the healthy development of a foetus and was not comparable to the company's use.
NutraIngredients saw that some consumers had discussed the product in a Mumsnet forum thread entitled: “Trying to conceive?” One woman wrote: “I came off the pill about two months ago and no luck getting pregnant. I have just bought a pack of Pregnacare and keeping my fingers crossed. My cycles have messed up because I stopped the pill (having two five-day long periods in one month), so I’m hoping Pregnacare sorts me out and gives me a baby.”