“Natural” vs. “Made With Natural Ingredients”

July 27, 2015

By Ricardo Carvajal

The distinction between the claims “natural” and “made with natural ingredients” is among the issues addressed in a recent NAD decision involving advertising for ASPIRE, a brand of sports drinks promoted as “all natural” and “natural sports drinks.”  The drinks include vitamins and citric acid, which NAD noted are typically synthetic.  Because the advertiser apparently did not provide evidence demonstrating that those ingredients are naturally derived, NAD concluded that the advertiser’s use of unqualified “natural” claims was unsupported, and recommended that the claims be discontinued.  However, NAD recognized the advertiser’s interest in distinguishing its drinks from competing products based on the use of natural flavors and sweeteners.  NAD thus made clear that nothing in its decision prevents the advertiser “from claiming that ASPIRE is naturally sweetened, naturally flavored, or that it is made with natural ingredients.”

For its part, the advertiser disagreed with NAD’s recommendation and maintained that its “natural” claim is “truthful and supported.”  Because the advertiser declined to implement NAD’s recommendation, the matter has been referred to FTC “for possible enforcement action.” 

The decision recaps NAD’s position on “natural” claims, which dovetails with FDA’s policy (“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 expected to be in the food”).  However, NAD has arguably gone beyond that policy in determining “that ingredients which undergo significant chemical alteration should not be called ‘natural.’”  NAD has also taken the position that “advertisers of ‘natural’ products should be very specific when describing ingredients that may be inconsistent with their consumer’s expectation.”  The decision thus serves as a timely reminder that, when it comes to “natural” claims, FDA’s policy is only one point of reference.