BBB National Programs Archive

Masterfoods, Russell Stover Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – June 14, 2007 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has determined that advertising for Dove Sugar Free Rich Dark Chocolates with [Raspberry, Mint, Chocolate] Crème, manufactured and sold by Masterfoods USA, does not convey an misleading or inaccurate message to consumers.

However, NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, noted that its decision does not address the advertiser’s compliance or noncompliance with Standards of Identity (SOI) established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for various products, including types of chocolate.

Masterfoods’ characterization of its sugar-free products as “dark chocolates” was challenged by Russell Stover Candies, Inc.

The challenger argued that the FDA has established that standardized chocolate products are made with certain specified carbohydrate sweeteners. The Dove sugar-free products are made with a sugar substitute that is not defined by the FDA as a carbohydrate sweetener. As a result, the challenger argued, Dove’s sugar-free products should not be called “dark chocolates.”] The challenger argued, as well, that that the accepted practice in the confectionary industry is to use the terms “chocolate candy,” “chocolate coating” or “chocolatey,” when labeling and advertising sugar-free products.

Russell Stover took issue with the content and composition of  labels for the Dove sugar-free products, noting that products offered with a nutrient content claim such as “sugar-free” must also include a referral statement that directs consumers to pertinent information about fat or sodium content, if the fat or sodium levels exceed standards established by the FDA. The challenger argued, as well, that type size on the “Net Quantity of Contents Statement” on the advertiser’s packaging did not meet FDA standards.

The advertiser countered that because there is no FDA standard for “dark chocolate,” Dove sugar-free products are not governed by the FDA’s SOI. Further, the advertiser argued that the product names describe what the products are – dark colored “chocolates” that contain additional flavor and texture attributes and are sweetened with something other than traditional “sugar.” The advertiser noted, as well, that it qualifies its “sugar-free” claim with the statement “Not a low calorie food.” Finally, the advertiser said it is modifying its packaging to include a referral statement.

As a preliminary matter, NAD noted that its role is broader than assessing technical compliance with FDA standards. Rather, NAD’s mission is to ensure that advertising is truthful, accurate and not misleading.