Company to appeal ruling on 'natural' sweetener

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — Heartland Sweeteners, L.L.C., admits its Ideal brand sweetener contains a small amount of sucralose, a synthetic high-intensity sweetener, but said its “natural” advertising claims for Ideal are factually correct. The company thus will appeal a decision made by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus to the National Advertising Review Board.

The N.A.D. on Jan. 11 recommended Heartland Sweeteners discontinue certain advertising claims for Ideal.

The ruling said, “While it is true that, by weight, the product as a whole may be ‘more than 99% natural,’ N.A.D. precedent makes clear that although a claim may be literally true, the context in which it is presented may still cause it to convey a message that is false or misleading to consumers.”

While xylitol, a natural sweetener that provides bulk, is the main ingredient in Ideal, the N.A.D. also said sucralose provides about 80% of Ideal’s sweetness. The N.A.D. reviewed such advertising claims as:

●”Everyone loves Ideal, the new natural sweetener, that tastes like sugar, bakes like sugar, without the calories.”
●”More than 99% natural”
●”Ideal is the perfect alternative to sugar and sugar substitutes because it . . . is made with Xylitol, a natural sweetener found in fruits and vegetables.”
●”What’s so special about Xylitol? . . . All-natural, looks and tastes just like sugar . . . Our bodies produce xylitol as everyday metabolism.”
●”Ideal replacement in your sugar bowl . . . Sweeten the natural way!”
●”What makes Ideal different than the other no-calorie sweeteners on the market currently? . . . More than 99% natural.”

Merisant Co., Chicago, challenged the Heartland Sweeteners’ claims made on product packaging, on the Internet, in print advertising and in other promotional materials. Merisant markets PureVia, a natural sweetener that uses rebaudioside A (Reb A) from the stevia plant as a high-intensity sweetener.

Heartland Sweeteners, Carmel, Ind., responded to the N.A.D. ruling, “N.A.D.’s decision protects the interests of incumbent, non-sugar sweetener manufacturers, some of whom have launched a new ‘natural’ sweetening product made from rebaudioside A (derived from stevia). Thus, under N.A.D.’s ruling, while producers of Reb A products may advertise that their products are ‘natural,’ Heartland may henceforth not claim that its Ideal product is any more natural than saccharine. This decision could harm the public interest by depriving consumers of truthful, relevant and helpful information on the foods they purchase.

“Because the N.A.D.’s ruling is factually unsupported and may have dramatic and unintended adverse consequences for the market for non-sugar sweeteners, Heartland intends to appeal N.A.D.’s findings to the N.A.R.B.”

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