The FTC issued a complaint against POM Wonderful yesterday for making “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.” From the FTC’s website:
The FTC complaint charges that POM Wonderful LLC, sister corporation Roll International Corp., and principals Stewart Resnick, Lynda Resnick, and Matthew Tupper violated federal law by making deceptive disease prevention and treatment claims. The ads in question appeared in national publications such as Parade, Fitness, The New York Times, and Prevention magazines; on Internet sites such as pomtruth.com, pomwonderful.com, and pompills.com; on bus stops and billboards; in newsletters to customers; and on tags attached to the product. POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice is widely available at grocery stores nationwide, and a 16 oz. bottle retails for approximately $3.99. POMx pills and liquid extract are sold via direct mail, with a one-month supply costing approximately $30.
“Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made. Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.”
The people who own POM Wonderful, Lynda Rae and Stewart Resnick, are masters at making their products appear venerable. They’re also behind FIJI water, another relatively expensive bottled drink in a chic container. FIJI, the most-imported water brand in the US in 2009, comes in plastic bottles made by diesel-powered plants in China. The island of Fiji’s military junta protects the brand, which is sourced in a Fijian aquifer, despite the fact that one-third of Fijian citizens don’t have clean drinking water.
As a result of the controversy around the brand, the Resnicks launched a $5 million “Fiji Green” marketing campaign aimed at making FIJI water carbon-negative through various offset efforts. They launched a now-neglected website detailing their efforts. Whether those efforts actually saved the FIJI brand is questionable–sales are down about 40% this year–but the Resnicks are clearly cognizant of what it takes to bolster consumer perception.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar kind of remedial website for POM Wonderful, underlining the studies that have been done to prove health benefits and otherwise touting the product’s appeal.