NAD Recommends Ragu Maker Mizkan Discontinue Taste-Preference Claim, Following Challenge by Campbell Soup

New York, NY – Jan. 5, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Mizkan America, Inc., discontinue consumer preference claims made in broadcast, print and internet advertising for the company’s Ragu Homestyle Traditional Pasta Sauce. NAD determined that the advertiser’s preference testing evidence wasn’t a good fit for the claims at issue. NAD also determined that the advertiser’s taste preference claim was limited to the specific products tested and did not convey a line claim.

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

Following a challenge by the Campbell Soup Company, NAD examined claims that included:

  • “Even Prego users prefer the taste of RAGU Homestyle Traditional over Prego Traditional.”
  • “What happens when you pick, peel and chop farm-grown ingredients?  You get RAGU Homestyle.  So good even Prego users prefer the taste of RAGU Homestyle Traditional over Prego Traditional.”
  • “RAGU Homestyle Wins!” Prego users prefer the taste of RAGU Homestyle Traditional over Prego Traditional sauce.”

Further, NAD considered whether the advertising at issue implied that Prego users prefer all varieties of Ragu Homestyle over Prego.

As NAD noted in its decision, advertising that consumers prefer one product to another can be persuasive.  It can cause consumers to switch from the product or brand they usually use and try a different product or brand.  As a result, it is important that such advertising clearly identify the products compared, be based on methodologically reliable testing and test a population that accurately reflects consumers of the product and the target market of the advertising.  NAD reviewed the advertiser’s taste test to determine whether it provided reliable support for its taste test claim.

NAD reviews and evaluates advertisers’ testing to assure that test methodologies are sound and results are consumer relevant.

NAD noted that the best evidence to support taste preference claims consists of double-blind testing of comparative products and involves a geographically dispersed sample that reflects the target market. A model taste test (1) compares products with similar shelf life that were purchased in the test market; (2) prepares both products according to instructions; (3) presents and tests products in the same way; (4) requires test subjects to cleanse their palate prior to tasting each product; and (5) produces statistically significant results.

In this case, NAD said, the advertiser’s taste-preference test met that criteria, but fell short in testing the correct population.

One message reasonably conveyed by the advertiser’s claim that “Prego users” prefer Ragu Homestyle Traditional is that “Prego Users” are people who regularly choose Prego as their preferred pasta sauce.  In this case, the test population also included people who only occasionally buy Prego.  The context of the television commercial increases the likelihood that consumers will take away the message that “Prego Users” are people who regularly eat Prego.  A consumer who frequently changes which pasta sauce he or she buys is not likely to consider themselves to be a “user” of a pasta sauce they purchased once in the last three months.

NAD concluded that the advertiser’s taste test used a test population that was not a good fit for its claim that “Prego users prefer the taste of Ragu Homestyle Traditional over Prego Traditional” and recommended that this claim be discontinued.

In its advertiser’s statement, Mizkan said it would comply with NAD’s recommendation. The company said “we are disappointed with the NAD’s finding that our testing does not support a preference claim amongst ‘Prego users.’ Mizkan nevertheless appreciates the opportunity to participate in the NAD’s self-regulatory process.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.