NAD Recommends MOM Brands Discontinue Taste-Test Claims Challenged by Post

Editor’s Note: This press release was revised 3.5.15 to reflect the advertiser’s decision to withdraw its appeal to the National Advertising Review Board. The revised Advertiser’s Statement has been included below.

New York, NY – Nov. 18, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that MOM Brands Company discontinue certain taste-test based claims for the company’s Malt-O-Meal brand cereals, following NAD’s finding that the testing was flawed.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Claims made on product packaging and in point-of-sale, Internet, and television advertisements by MOM Brands were challenged by Post Foods, LLC, maker of competing cereals.

Claims at issue included:

• “MOM Oat Blenders with Honey & Almonds Preferred Over Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds!”
• “National Taste Test WINNER Fruity Dyno-Bites preferred over Post Fruity Pebbles.”
• “National Taste Test WINNER Cocoa Dyno-Bites preferred over Post Cocoa Pebbles.”
• “MOM Honey Buzzers Preferred over Post Honeycomb.”
• “Cocoa Dyno-Bites – 50% More Compared to Cocoa Pebbles cereal 15 oz. box.”
• “Fruity Dyno-Bites – 50% More Compared to Cocoa Pebbles cereal 15 oz. box.”
• “Malt-O-Meal Dyno-Bites Cereal Preferred Over Post Pebbles Cereal.”

NAD noted in its decision that it appreciated that the advertiser sought to design its taste tests’ protocols in accordance with NAD and NARB precedent. The test was conducted by an independent third-party administrator, and used a simple paired-comparison of blinded cereals. Further, the test presented the parties’ products along with an array of milk options so that participants would be able to fairly assess the products in a consumer-relevant manner, and included opportunities for test subjects to cleanse their palates between products. The test also included a sufficiently large sample size to elicit statistically and consumer relevant results.

NAD was concerned, however, about the universe from which the advertiser drew its taste test subjects. Certain industry standards require that, “a national claim should be based on a sample representing major geographic regions . . . [a] minimum of two markets in each of the four regions should be included.” The advertiser utilized only one testing center in the Northeast census region, a deviation that affects consumer relevance, as taste preferences can be significantly impacted by geographic variance.
The claim that its product won a “National Taste Test” conveys a broad, strong message regarding the taste preferences of the overall population of sweetened breakfast cereal consumers, NAD said.

Further, NAD questioned the selected age range of taste test subjects (ages 30 to 64).

NAD and NARB have held that, “taste tests should sample consumers who customarily use the products being compared.” The advertiser, NAD noted, sampled from the population to whom it targets its marketing – adult purchasers of breakfast cereal – not from the population that necessarily uses the products. By selecting a specific type of breakfast cereal purchaser for its taste test, the advertiser excluded more than half of actual product users in the product category.

Following its review, NAD determined that the advertiser’s taste tests were insufficiently reliable to serve as a reasonable basis for its taste preference claims and recommended that the claims be discontinued.

NAD considered whether the imagery and language used in television advertising conveyed a line claim, but determined that the images of MOM Brand and Post cereals adequately served to limit a taste preference message to the cereals pictured, and concluded a line claim was not conveyed.

Finally, NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its product volume comparison claims, “50% More – Compared to Cocoa [or Fruity] Pebbles cereal 15 oz. box” and that the claims did not reasonably convey the message that the challenger does not offer a larger sized version of the products.

MOM Brands, in its revised advertiser’s statement, that while the company “respectfully disagrees” with NAD findings regarding the company’s taste preference tests, it agrees to abide by the NAD decision in the future and has withdrawn its appeal of the NAD decision to the National Advertising Review Board.