POM Wonderful Marketing Isn’t, FTC Says

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POM Wonderful executives may be enjoying all the attention spawned by buying the title sponsorship of Morgan Spurlock’s product-placement documentary, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. But there’s another show going on, in Washington, D.C., that actually may have more to say about the long-term fate of the brand.

And this one could be called The Obama Administration Presents: Watch What You Say. After first clamping down on the brand’s ad claims last year, the Federal Trade Commission is still squeezing the pomegranate juice giant as part of the agency’s campaign to get food and beverage companies to throttle health-benefit claims in their marketing and advertising.[more]

The FTC, which is once again on POM’s case for making claims it says are unsubstantiated by scientific research, has already pressured Nestle and Dannon to scale back claims for their probiotic-bacteria products. Ben & Jerry’s was forced to remove “all natural” from their packaging and marketing.

One problem with some of POM Wonderful’s ads, regulators are saying, is that they have inferred or claimed prostate-health benefits for drinkers of the juice without sufficient scientific evidence. Drug makers have been held by regulators to a much tougher standard of proof for their therapeutic claims than food companies must meet for claims of health benefits for their products, but POM Wonderful executives testified that now the administration is attempting to force their industry to meet a pharmaceutical standard.

It’s just one of the ways that the Obama administration is clipping the wings of food and beverage marketers, which also include getting tough on how they market their products to kids and pressures being brought to bear by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-childhood-obesity campaign.

Pom Wonderful founder Lynda Resnick was defiant in her remarks to the FTC, citing the “8,000-year history of the pomegranate.” But the government’s overall campaign already may have achieved part of its purpose with this particular brand. 

After the FTC filed suit last year, Pom Wonderful’s ads shifted tone, playing up the sexy and seductive aspects of the ancient pomegranate fruit, compared with a health message. It wasn’t enough to seduce the feds, however.

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