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Health food industry regulation
The health food industry plays a key role in providing the nation with a practical way of sustaining good health, as well as being a forum for business innovation. The sector is a driving force in the food business as British culture turns towards ‘green’ life styles. Studies show more customers than ever are actively seeking out ‘healthy’ products in their daily diet, and health food stores are a common sight on high streets.
There are plenty of success stories from the sector. Many people make health food supplements such as cod liver oil or multi-vitamins part of their daily diet, while the ‘super food’ concept is driving more and more customers to fresh produce and other related products. Despite the economic conditions, the high street health food retailer Holland & Barrett has grown steadily and is now expanding its overseas business. The company believes this is down to consumers viewing a healthy diet as a key area of their life and refusing to cut spending despite diminished incomes. If true, this provides an opportunity for success in an otherwise difficult market.
Food product packaging must comply with regulations designed to protect public health and maintain quality. The area is particularly difficult to navigate since businesses must comply with both national law and European Union law.
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The government maintains extensive regulations on product advertising. The Advertising Standards Agency published a new code on advertising which businesses must now comply with in conjunction with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These regulations create a host of important rules. For example, advertisements must not exaggerate the effects of the product and companies must prove claims about the product, as well as a host of requirements relating to testimonials. These are all especially important for the health food sector, since products in this area are sold on the strength of their positive effects on health.
Although the agency tries to operate a ‘common sense’ approach to reviewing advertisements it is still potentially dangerous for businesses to invest in an advertising strategy without fully understanding the requirements of the law. Take a look at some of the examples below:
Actimel - 2009
A television advert by Danone for their ‘Actimel’ pro-biotic yoghurt drink fell foul of the agency regulations and had to be withdrawn. The advert claimed that Actimel was ‘scientifically proven to help support your kids’ defences’. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: ‘We thought that their evidence fell short. It wasn’t a million miles away, it wasn’t actually bad evidence compared to some that we see, but it wasn’t good enough to prove the claim.’. This demonstrates how important it is to have solid legal advice behind you before designing a marketing strategy around a particular claim.
Tetley Green Tea - 2009
Tetley’s television advert for their green tea product was banned by the ASA on two grounds. The advert showed a woman preparing for a run, but then stopping as she reached the door due to heavy rain and instead sitting down for a cup of Tetley’s Green Tea. The images were accompanied by the slogan ‘for an easy way to help look after yourself pick up Tetley Green Tea. It's full of antioxidants.’ Even though no detailed claims about health benefits were made, the ASA held that the images implied that the product produced similar health benefits to running. In addition the claims about antioxidants did not meet ASA scientific standards.
This case demonstrates the problems businesses can run into if they don’t receive effective legal advice. The ASA are clearly prepared to take a tough stance on product claims, which is why it’s especially important that your business gets in contact with the expert team at Stephensons before you embark on an expensive advertising scheme.
Stephensons' regulatory team have a history of great results in regulatory compliance. With our advice you can be sure that your advertisements are completely in line with government standards and avoid incurring expensive liabilities. Call our free helpline today and find out how we can help your business move forward: 01616 966 229
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