In the heated contest for market share of antioxidant-rich drinks, it’s Pom Wonderful two, competitors nil.

The National Advertising Division recently reviewed claims by juice maker Bossa Nova Beverage Group, Inc. concerning its Acai Juice at the request of Pom Wonderful, LLC, which markets pomegranate juice drinks. The NAD concluded that Bossa Nova’s studies did not adequately substantiate claims that its drink was higher in antioxidants than Pom Wonderful’s drinks, and therefore should be discontinued.

Earlier this year, Pom Wonderful won a $1.5 million award in a false advertising suit against the Purely Juice company for claims the latter made concerning its “100% Pomegranate” drink.

The Bossa Nova case involved Bossa Nova Acai Juice, made from pulp from acai berries, which are indigenous to Central and South America.

The NAD reviewed claims such as:

“Bossa Nova sets the standard for antioxidant potency. The proof is in the numbers”

“Bossa Nova is higher in antioxidants and lower in sugars”

“highest antioxidant fruit”

Pom Wonderful argued that while the acai berries are indeed high in antioxidants, they deteriorate rapidly and therefore must be exported in a frozen, freeze dried or dried berry pulp form. The pulp then must be significantly sweetened and mixed with other ingredients to become palatable, the challenger claimed.

A chart on Bossa Nova’s website and its bottles listed the antioxidant content of the berries themselves rather than the drink, and therefore was misleading, Pom Wonderful argued. The label, “µmole TE/gram fresh fruit” did not cure the claim because consumers were unlikely to understand what it meant, the challenger stated.

Pom Wonderful also objected to express claims on Bossa Nova’s website that its juice has more antioxidants than any other juice, including POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.

In response, Bossa Nova introduced studies it commissioned at five laboratories to test POM Wonderful juice and acai juice.

Given the lack of industry consensus as to how to measure antioxidant content, the NAD questioned whether such studies could effectively support specific claims of superiority. In addition, the NAD found serious flaws with each of the studies introduced by Bossa Nova.

For example, one study took an average of several samples of Bossa Nova drinks, while only using one sample each of competitor juice products. Another study only tested one sample each— although there was consensus that the antioxidant content tended to vary widely between samples. In addition, there was no statistical difference between Bossa Nova’s Acai Juice drink and POM Wonderful’s product, so a claim of superiority could not be supported, the NAD said.

The NAD also criticized Bossa Nova for displaying the chart on its bottles that listed the antioxidant content in the acai berries themselves rather than the amount contained in the drink. Such a chart may be more appropriate for the website—if put in the proper context, the advertising authority stated.

The NAD concluded that Bossa Nova had not substantiated its claims, and requested that the company discontinue the challenged statements.

Bossa Nova responded that it “disagrees … with NAD’s findings that the testing procedures utilized on Bossa Nova’s product and the procedures utilized on its competitor’s products are not sufficiently similar to support a claim of antioxidant superiority.”

The juice market is likely to receive continued scrutiny from the NAD, which noted in its review the importance of claims concerning antioxidants.

“NAD has recognized for several years now that antioxidants have attracted the attention of researchers and marketers because of the potential role that antioxidants may play with respect to heart disease, cancer prevention and other health related issues,” the NAD stated. “At the same time, however, such claims communicate powerful messages to a vulnerable target audience.”

Why This Matters:  The Federal Trade Commission regards health-related claims as an area of particular sensitivity, and therefore the NAD carefully monitors these claims as well. According to the industry’s self-regulatory advertising guidelines, “[u]nqualified superiority claims as a general rule should be substantiated by head to head testing against a significant portion of the competing products on the market.”