General Mills, Dannon Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – Dec. 4,  2008 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that General Mills modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s Yoplait Yo-Plus product.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast, print and Internet advertising for Yoplait Yo-Plus, following a challenge by Dannon, the maker of Activia Yogurt, a competing product.

Superiority, efficacy and performance claims at issue in the broadcast advertising included:

  • “Try Yo-Plus for 10 days and you just might feel like…”
  • “Helps regulate digestive health naturally.”
  • “Compare to Activia.  Both have special digestive health cultures.”
  • “Only Yo-Plus has cultures plus fiber plus vitamins A and D.” “Yo-Plus’ unique blend of probiotic cultures plus fiber help your body regulate your digestive health naturally.”

Broadcast advertising also featured a chart that displayed product attributes that include “Probiotic Culture,”  “Prebiotic Fiber,” “Vitamin A,” and “Vitamin D.”

The chart indicated that both products contain “probiotic culture,” but only Yo-Plus contains prebiotic fiber, and Vitamins A and D. The chart includes the disclosure that “special cultures in Yo-Plus not studied to show reduced transit time.”

Claims at issue in print and internet advertising included:

  • “Once you digest the facts, you’ll see why Yo-Plus yogurt comes out on top.”
  • “Help naturally regulate digestive health with Yo-Plus Digestive Health.”

The focus of this challenge is the effect of supplementing the human diet with probiotic microorganisms – which naturally exist in the digestive system, particularly in the colon – on digestive health.

Activia and Yo-Plus are both yogurt products supplemented with Bifidobacteria and marketed as products that will help “regulate digestive health.”  However, the advertiser and challenger include different probiotic bacteria in their products, use this phrase, “regulate digestive health,” to describe different effects on the human digestive system, and base their claims on different evidence.

Yo-Plus contains a blend of probiotic culture Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis (Bb12), inulin fiber, and Vitamins A and D. 

In support of its advertising claims, General Mills presented a significant body of evidence on Bb12, including 17 studies. However, NAD determined that the results of the studies – while sufficient to support ingredient claims for Bb12 – are not sufficient to support a health-related product performance claim.

NAD recommended that in future advertising, the advertiser avoid communicating the unsupported message that the Yo-Plus product itself has been proven to help “regulate digestive health,” and expressly limit any digestive health benefit claims to the ingredient Bb12.

With respect to the comparative efficacy claim, NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret the advertiser’s chart (as it appears in the context of the challenged advertising) to mean that the probiotic cultures in Activia and Yo-Plus are the same and/or provide the same digestive health benefits and that the only difference between the two yogurts is that Yo-Plus, in addition to probiotic culture, provides other beneficial ingredients – a message not supported by the evidence in the record.  NAD recommended that, in future advertising, the advertiser avoid conveying the unsupported message that Yo-Plus contains the same probiotic ingredient or provides the same digestive health benefit as Activia.

NAD noted, however, that General Mills is free to promote the fact that its product  contains an ingredient (Bb12) which has been shown to help regulate digestive health and, unlike Activia, its product also contains fiber, vitamin A and vitamin D. 

NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret the 10-day claim to mean that the product will provide the promised digestive health benefit in 10 days, a message that was not supported by the evidence in the record.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser expressly limit any superiority claims to the additional nutrients in Yo-Plus and discontinue its unsupported 10-day claim.

General Mills, in its advertiser’s statement, took issue with certain NAD findings. The company noted, however, that it “supports the self-regulatory process, and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”