Clif Bar & Company claimed the its eponymous energy bars were “The Ultimate Energy Bar” and contained an “optimal blend of protein, fat and carbs.” The claims appeared within an online commercial for the bars.
The claims were challenged by a director competitor, Kind LLC, which manufactures the Kind Bars line of energy bars based on whole, natural ingredients.
The NAD ruling found that Clif did not substantiate the claims that its nutrient blend was ‘optimal.’ For the record, a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar (one of the company’s standard flavors) has 9 grams of protein, 46 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber in a 250-calorie serving. Most of the carbs come from organic brown rice syrup and sugar cane syrup and the protein is provided mostly in the form of soy protein isolate. Sunflower oil is one of the principal forms of fat.
A Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bar contains 6 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of fat along with 7 grams of fiber. The protein comes from whole almonds and peanuts (which also contribute fat and carbs) while honey is the principle stand alone carbohydrate source.
Pairing ‘ultimate’ with ‘optimal’ was straw that broke camel’s back
The ruling found that the juxtaposition of the ‘ultimate’ statement with the ‘optimal’ one implied that Clif had substantiation that the formula of its bars was in fact superior to those sold by the competition. ‘Ultimate’ by itself could be construed as a bit of non-provable hyperbole, the NAD said.
“The claim ‘The Ultimate Energy Bar’ purposefully crafted with ‘an optimal blend of protein, fat and carbs’ conveys an implied comparative superiority message that must be supported,” the NAD ruling stated.
The NAD ruling stated that if Clif wanted to continue making the claim as it stood it needed to substantiate it with:
- Information on competitor energy bars;
- Specific details regarding the actual blend of protein, fat, and carbs in CLIF Energy Bar varieties; or
- An explanation as to why the CLIF Energy Bar’s blend is optimal or better than the competitor’s energy bars for the activities depicted in the commercial (the original commercial, which ran on a number of online platforms including YouTube, showed men and women skateboarding, running, practicing lacrosse, working out together, and weightlifting).
Clif: Claims meant to function as hyperbole
Interestingly, in its response Clif more or less admitted that the claims in the commercial were intended to be ‘puffery,’ much in the same way as the ‘gives you wings’ claim for Red Bull energy beverages was ruled to be.
In its advertiser statement, Clif stated that it “will comply with NAD’s recommendation.” The advertiser further stated that while it “disagrees with NAD’s determination that juxtaposing these phrases to one another takes each ‘out of the realm of puffery,’ Clif agrees to cease juxtaposing its ‘ultimate energy bar’ tagline with its reference to ‘optimal’ nutrients.”