The claim was made in a UK advertisement which used the wording ‘natural deliciousness’ and ‘from nature for sweetness’. A member of the public complained to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the claim was misleading and could not be substantiated.
The sweetener contains Reb-A steviol glycosides, an extract from stevia leaf that is chemically processed. It also contains erythritol as a bulking agent which is synthetically made.
Truvia is produced by Cargill which entered into a partnership with British Sugar to sell it in the UK through the company’s retail brand Silver Spoon.
ASA spokesperson, Matt Wilson, told FoodNavigator: “[British Sugar] gave us an assurance that they would withdraw the ad and not use the claim in their future campaigns for the product. On that basis we closed the case informally.
“We’re monitoring the situation – repeat offences will be picked up and dealt with accordingly – but at this stage, it doesn’t seem like they are unwilling or unable to comply with the rules.”
This was the second time that British Sugar has been pulled up for the same unsubstantiated claim for Truvia – but Wilson said that two informal rulings in 12 months was not considered to be indicative of a serious issue with an advertiser.
A Silver Spoon spokesman said: “At the time of the complaint the print advertising campaign had come to an end, so we simply decided to not to run this particular advert again. The ASA are happy with our response.”
The Guardian reported Chris Hughes, who lodged the complaint to the ASA, as saying: “Cargill had to change their US marketing, now they’re trying it on in Europe (…). Consumers should have better protection. They shouldn’t have to rely solely on the vigilance of the press.”
But Wilson rejected this. “The ASA responded to a complaint about an ad and our action resulted in it being withdrawn – that’s got nothing to do with the ‘vigilance of the press’.”
“There are many millions of ads appearing in the UK every year and it would be impossible for any organisation/regulator to monitor them all. The public and competitors act as our eyes and ears and are quick to get in touch if they see an ad that they believe is misleading, harmful or offensive,” he said.
A costly claim
Truvia’s claim to naturalness has proven expensive for Cargill, which agreed to settle a proposed class action law suit brought against it in the US in 2013 for misleading consumers, paying out over $6 m (€5.4 m).
Cargill retained the right to call Truvia natural but had to add an asterisk to its ‘Nature’s calorie-free sweetener’ tagline inviting consumers to look at the FAQ page of its website.