Simply Organic advertising criticised as no proof of organic was provided

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Hair care Advertising

The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has said that US brand Simply Organic will have to alter its magazine advertising as the company could not prove the products were organic.

Simply Organic advertised the availability of its hair care range in UK professional salons using the title “Naturally Organic … Simply!”, followed by the text “The award winning simply organic range now available in professional salons”.

No documentation to prove products were organic

After receiving a complaint, the ASA asked the company for documentation to prove its products were organic, which an ASA spokesperson said could not be provided.

“The company provided a list of ingredients that were certified organic, but there was no documentation to say which ingredients were in the hair care products advertised,”​ the spokesperson told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

In addition, the company provided a certification letter from the USDA for one of its products, which was valid until 2007, along with a letter from a US certification company that did not make clear reference to the products referred to in the ad.

Taking this into account the ASA upheld the complaint and said the magazine advert could no longer appear in the same form.

Unlike in the food sector, the word organic has no legal binding in cosmetics and although certification systems exist, companies are not obliged to enlist their services in order to prove the organic nature of their products.

However, the ASA requires documentation of any claim made or suggested by a product’s advertising, which in this case could not be provided.

Misleading to consumers

Dr Chris Gummer, director of cosmetics consultancy firm Cider Solutions, said he was in agreement with the ASA’s decision, adding that for a consumer Simply Organic’s advert is likely to be misleading.

“The consumer does have an expectation of what the word organic means. My expectation as a consumer would be that this is an organic product, not a product that contains a few organic ingredients,”​ he told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

While the company brand name contains the word organic, Gummer did not think that this in itself was the problem.

“I don’t think the company will have to change its brand name in order to advertise. They can market under the Simply Organic name as long as they don’t try to spin the name to mean more than it does, in this case they have stretched it too far​. Also, they should have included statements to contain details on what the product is.”​he explained.

Is the brand or product name a claim?

The discussion surrounding whether the product name is a claim in itself is relevant in the cosmetics sector in general, according to Gummer.

An Anti-Ageing Cream does need to have some efficacy in the anti-ageing domain, but it does not need to stop you from ageing, he said.

However, for Organic Monitor’s Judi Beerling the brand name does add, in some way, to the consumer confusion and she said expected similar cases in the future.

“Anything with a brand name that says the word organic in it would certainly mislead consumers who generally are unable to understand INCI lists well enough to make an informed judgement”​ she told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

Complaints from companies which make certified products can be expected, she added, before referencing the legal case led by Dr Bronner which is trying to call companies up on this in the US.

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