NAD Chews On Meal Kit Delivery Service Claims

Advertising Law

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A claim of “more flexibility” had adequate support, but other challenged claims—such as “more choice” and “Rated #1”—should be discontinued, the National Advertising Division (NAD) recommended in a case that involved the Relish Labs’ Home Chef meal kit delivery service.

Competitor HelloFresh challenged dozens of Home Chef claims, which appeared on social media, on the company’s website, and in direct-to-consumer mail ads as well as on YouTube videos.

The claims fell into several categories: (1) claims for the “Customize It” feature (such as “Tired of chicken? No problem. More flexibility than HelloFresh with Customize It” and “With the NEW Customize It feature, you can choose from up to 26 fresh weekly options including steak, chicken, pork, fish and vegetarian. Customize your choices by swapping, upgrading or doubling the recipe protein”); (2) “more choices” claims (“26 Weekly Choices with Home Chef vs 18 with HelloFresh”); (3) “more freedom” and “more flexibility” claims (including “Home Chef offers more flexibility” and “Home Chef offers more freedom”); and (4) “Rated #1” claims.

Home Chef offers one menu each week, consisting of all of its food offerings from which a customer can order. Customers can order in different serving sizes and choose up to eight different recipes per week. Home Chef also offers the Customize It option that allows customers to choose from the different protein options.

Focusing on the perspective of an unsubscribed, potential Home Chef customer, the NAD found that the customization claims overstated how the feature works.

“[C]onsumers could reasonably take away unsupported messages about their options for customizing meals,” the self-regulatory body wrote. For example, a consumer could believe that she could select one or more of the custom options offered on meals (which she can’t) or that the option to double the protein exists all the time (which it doesn’t).

“As presented, Home Chef’s claims overstate the extent and amount of customization it offers,” the NAD said, recommending that the advertiser modify its monadic claims to more narrowly tailor them in order to avoid overstatement.

Turning to the “more choices” claims, the NAD again found that Relish Labs needed to tweak its language to avoid overstating what was actually available for consumers, including the removal of comparative numeric “choices” claims from the tally of options for “doubling” or “upgrading” protein.

However, the “more freedom” and “more flexibility” claims had sufficient support to survive the NAD’s review. Although the advertiser does not offer all protein options on all meals, “it cannot be disputed that Home Chef’s Customize It program offers a significant number of opportunities to either upgrade (or not), switch out (thereby changing the recipe) or increase the amount of protein in its weekly meal selections.”

As for the “Rated #1 in customer satisfaction” claims, the NAD found them problematic.

“While the claim does not mention HelloFresh by name, in the context presented—specifically, the coupling of the ‘#1 Customer Satisfaction’ with ‘among leading meal kit companies’—[the] NAD determined that consumers could reasonably takeaway [sic] the unsupported message that customer satisfaction was directly compared between Home Chef and competing meal kit services including, but not limited to, HelloFresh, and that Home Chef was rated higher in customer satisfaction above these competing services.”

The other language in the advertisements contributed to the problem, the NAD said, with statements such as “Why are we rated number 1? Flexibility … Variety … Value” that expressly ascribed specific attributes as the basis for the “Rated #1” comparative message.

Relish Labs should modify the claim “to make clear that the entire claim is based solely on a customer satisfaction survey of Home Chef customers’ experiences with the advertiser’s service and avoid the implication that customer satisfaction was directly measured and compared between the parties’ respective services,” the NAD recommended.

To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters: The NAD conducted a deep dive into the different business models of the two meal kit delivery services, ultimately recommending that most of the challenged Home Chef claims should be modified or discontinued.