Not Easy Being Green Chef in ERSP Challenge

Advertising Law

Resolving an anonymous competitor challenge, the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) recommended that Green Chef, Inc., modify or discontinue certain claims for its meal delivery service.

The challenger asserted that Green Chef’s website and social media advertising implied that all of the company’s meal kits as well as its meals and ingredients are organic, with ad claims such as “Organic Meal Kits,” “Green Chef is proud to be USDA-certified organic,” “90% or more organic ingredients” and “The leading organic meal kit company.”

Noting that the advertiser targeted its meal delivery service to consumers of organic food, ERSP determined that “in the absence of a clear and proximate disclosure indicating otherwise, it would not be unreasonable for consumers to interpret claims such as ‘Organic Meal Kits,’ ‘Fresh organic ingredients,’ ‘Green Chef: Organic Delicious Delivery’ and ‘Your organic ingredients are almost here!’ to mean that all ingredients delivered to consumers are organic, and/or the meals themselves are organic.”

In addition to making express claims, Green Chef featured the USDA organic seal prominently throughout its website and social media advertising, the self-regulatory body said.

“ERSP has determined that it would not be unreasonable for consumers to interpret the use of this seal, in the context of the reviewed advertisements, as implying that the complete meals are organic, or that all ingredients delivered to the consumers are organic,” according to the decision. “If consumers interpret these claims to mean that all delivered ingredients are organic, then these claims may be misleading because there is no dispute that Green Chef meals do not contain exclusively organic products.”

As distinct from a grocery store, where consumers have prior knowledge about which ingredients are organic before they make their on-shelf purchases, consumers buying online from Green Chef do not know which particular ingredients in a given recipe are organic until after they have purchased the meal and the ingredients are delivered to them, ERSP said.

ERSP recommended that the marketer include language clarifying the availability and sourcing of organic ingredients and that Green Chef “include clear and conspicuous language denoting which ingredients are organic or explaining the sourcing of organic ingredients to reduce potential consumer confusion.”

Comparative claims (like “the leading organic meal kit company”) also necessitated change, ERSP said. While truthful and accurate claims explaining its organic ingredients and its history of being the first certified organic meal kit company were fine, the advertiser should “discontinue any comparative claims conveying the message that Green Chef has the most organic ingredients.”

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

Why it matters: As the organic food industry continues explosive growth, the meal kit delivery market is also expanding, making ERSP’s review of Green Chef’s claims especially notable. The self-regulatory body concluded that the advertiser should improve its disclosures with regard to which of its meal kit ingredients are organic, it should explain the source of organic ingredients to reduce consumer confusion, and it should avoid a comparative message that it delivered the most organic ingredients.