BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Refers Advertising for ASPIRE Sport Drinks to FTC After Company Declines to Discontinue Certain Advertising

New York, NY – July 16, 2015  – The National Advertising Division has referred advertising claims made by Aspire Beverage Company for its ASPIRE Sports Drinks to the Federal Trade Commission after the company declined to discontinue certain claims for the products, including “all natural” claims.

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

The claims at issue were challenged by Stokely-Van Camp, Inc., a maker of competing Gatorade sports drinks, and included:

  • ASPIRE is the “clear choice for…health, and better performance.”
  • “ASPIRE Beverage Company makes natural sports drinks designed to improve the health and performance of athletes.”
  • ASPIRE is “all natural.”
  • The antioxidants in ASPIRE make “…it easier to fight colds, flu, and infections.”
  • “ASPIRE contains beneficial electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.”
  • Gatorade supplies “empty calories.”
  • Gatorade provides “extra sugar.

NAD also considered whether the claims at issue implied that Gatorade is harmful or that ASPIRE is the only healthy sports drink, provides only beneficial electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals; has no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives; is more healthful, effective, better tasting or nutritionally superior to Gatorade; will enhance athletic performance and is good for kids while other sports drinks are not.

NAD noted in its decision that much of ASPIRE’s advertising was directed to parents who purchase sports drinks for their children and may be concerned about the sugar content and energy-replacement benefits of a sports drink.

Following it review of the evidence in the record, NAD noted that the advertiser demonstrated that excess sugar can be harmful to the health of certain consumers. However, NAD noted, the advertiser did not demonstrate that Gatorade contains “empty calories” or provides “extra sugar” when it is used as energy replacement during vigorous exercise.  Further, NAD noted, the advertiser did not demonstrate the energy-replacement benefits of ASPIRE.  NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claims that Gatorade contains “excess calories” and “extra sugar” and further recommended that, to the extent it seeks to compare the calorie content or amount of sugar in ASPIRE to Gatorade, it make clear the differences between the products.

Similarly, NAD cautioned the advertiser that to the extent it compares its products’ sodium content to Gatorade, it make clear that the differences between the products in terms of electrolyte replacement benefits.

Regarding the advertiser’s “natural claim,” NAD noted that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NAD have held that natural claims are supported if “nothing artificial or synthetic (including color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”

NAD has further held that ingredients that under undergo significant chemical alteration should not be called “natural.”

In this case, the advertiser contended its product is natural because it does not contain artificial colors, flavors, oils or preservatives. However, the advertiser did not demonstrate that all of its ingredients, including vitamins and citric acid, are natural. NAD found that the advertiser had not supported its “natural sports drink” claim and recommended that the claim be discontinued.

Finally, NAD recommended that ASPIRE discontinue its unqualified claims that competitor sports drinks contain high fructose corn syrup and recommended that the advertiser discontinue comparing nutrient information on different size servings of competitor sports drinks and discontinue any claim which implies that Gatorade shows nutrient information on a serving size that is less than the container size of its drinks.

ABC, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company would make certain of the recommended changes. However, the company said, with regard to “NAD’s recommendation that ABC discontinue its unqualified claim that ASPIRE is a ‘natural sports drink,’ we are confident in our ability to continue making this claim and that our ‘natural’ claim is truthful and supported.”

Given that the advertiser has informed NAD that it will not implement certain recommendations, NAD has referred the case to FTC for further review.