BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Abbott Discontinue Ensure Claim ‘Feel More Strength & Energy in 2 Weeks;’ Finds Advertiser can Support ‘#1 Doctor Recommended Claim’

New York, NY – July 6, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Abbott Nutrition discontinue claims that promise consumers they will “Feel More Strength & Energy in Just 2 Weeks.” NAD also found that the company could support claims that its “Ensure Surgery” product is the “#1 Doctor Recommended Brand.”

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

Claims made by Abbott Nutrition in television, online, and print advertising were challenged by Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition, Inc., the maker of Boost Nutritional Beverages.

The nutritional beverages made by the challenger and the advertiser are formulated to provide a combination of calories, nutrients, and protein designed to supplement the diets of various vulnerable populations, including older adults.

Animated commercials featuring the challenged strength and energy claim are set inside a refrigerator, where a bottle of Ensure Original gives a pep talk to other foods and beverages, encouraging the group to help “get the lady of the house back on her feet and help her feel more strength and energy in just two weeks.”

The claim “Feel More Strength & Energy in 2 Weeks*” appears in a chyron and a disclaimer appears at the bottom on the page, which states, “*From a survey of adults aged 50-80 who self-reported a lack of energy or appetite.”

Internet and print advertising includes a similar but slightly longer disclaimer, “*Survey of 321 independent-living adults aged 50-80 years old, who reported a lack of energy or appetite, added 1-2 servings of Ensure Original daily to their regular diet.  Survey participants self-reported improvements in strength, energy, and activity.”

Following its review, NAD determined that one of the messages reasonably conveyed is a sensory claim – consumers using Ensure will feel stronger and more energetic after two weeks.  NAD found that the advertising also conveyed the implied message that consumers would feel stronger and have more energy after two weeks because adding Ensure to their diets actually made them stronger and more energetic – an objective performance claim. NAD was unpersuaded by the advertiser’s assertion that the only reasonable message conveyed by its advertising is that Ensure users self-reported feeling more strength and energy after two weeks.

The advertiser relied on the results of a four-week in-home use test on Ensure Original as support for the claim. Following a screening process, participants were asked a series of questions at baseline to assess how they felt physically and emotionally prior to introducing Ensure into their daily diets. The participants were then asked to use the product and required to re-take the same questionnaire each week.

NAD noted in its decision that when a claim conveys a message about both the tangible, objective results of product use, as well as the subjective feeling of those results, objective testing is appropriate.  NAD determined that the evidence provided was insufficient to support the implied claim that the consumers that use Ensure will have more strength and energy after two weeks and recommended that the express claim be discontinued.  NAD also considered whether Abbott’s in-home test could support a more limited sensory claim and determined that the test was flawed and did not produce results that were sufficiently reliable to support the sensory claim at issue.

With regard to the use of “#1 Doctor Recommended Brand” in advertising for Ensure Surgery, the advertiser noted that it used the same version of its “#1 Doctor Recommended Brand” claim that NAD found substantiated in a prior matter.  The advertiser stated that it regularly updates the survey used to substantiate this claim and that the claim remains truthful.

While there are unique ingredients in Ensure Surgery, as there are in each sub-branded product, that fact alone does not mean that the advertiser should be barred from utilizing brand recognition in its advertising for the product, NAD noted. NAD determined that the claim was substantiated.

Abbott, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company disagreed with certain of NAD’s findings.

“That said, because Abbott supports the self-regulatory process, it will comply with NAD’s recommendations,” the company said.

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.