BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Morton Discontinue Certain Advertising Claims for System Saver II Water Softening Salt Pellets

New York, NY – May 2, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Morton Salt, Inc., discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s System Saver II water softening salt pellets. The claims at issue, published on packaging and in broadcast, print and Internet advertising, were challenged by Cargill, Incorporated, the maker of competing water softening salt pellets under the Diamond Crystal brand.

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

Water softeners treat “hard” water by removing minerals, including calcium and magnesium, by forcing hard water though a tank that contains “ion exchange resin beads” –beads that are charged to attract and hold on to calcium and magnesium ions as the water passes over them. As the beads become saturated with minerals, water softeners have a built-in system to flush the beads with salt brine, wash away the calcium and magnesium and “recharge” the beads so that they can again attract and remove hard water minerals.

This regeneration process requires the salt products sold by the challenger and advertiser.

In addition to calcium and magnesium, a water softener’s resin beads can also attract and pull iron ions from the water supply in a process referred to as “iron fouling.” Both parties offer products that add citric acid and other additives to their water softening salt to help remove iron during regeneration.

At issue were claims about the advertiser’s enhanced salt pellets, System Saver II, or SSII, including:

  •  “Extends Softener Life Up to 5 Years*”
  •  “Delivers up to 18% more soft water per pound of salt than plain salt pellets*”
  •  “Removes up to 12% more hard water minerals than plain salt pellets during regeneration*

Product packaging and some advertisements also carried the disclaimer:

  •  “*Assuming an average softener life of 10 years, based on external laboratory testing compared to plain salt pellets.”

To substantiate these claims, the advertiser provided the results of an extensive test conducted by an independent third-party laboratory.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that results of the advertiser’s testing, which utilized water containing atypically high levels of iron, were not sufficiently reliable to support unqualified superior performance claims targeted to the general public.

However, NAD acknowledged the testing could provide a reasonable basis for a more limited claim that, for consumers with high levels of iron in their water, using SSII rather than plain salt, could – over the life of a water softener – improve the appliance’s long-term performance and extend its useful life.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue its unsupported quantified claims “Extends Softener Life Up To 5 Years*,” “Delivers up to 18% more soft water per pound of salt than plain salt pellets.*,” and “Removes up to 12% more hard water minerals than plain salt pellets during regeneration.*”

Finally, NAD determined that the advertiser’s disclosure which included confusing language and appeared on the back of a 25-50 pound bag, was neither clear nor conspicuous and inadequate to support its advertising claims.

Morton, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will take the NAD’s decision into account in future research and advertising, and modify or discontinue the advertising statements as currently phrased.”