United Biscuits Private Limited - McVitie's Wholewheat Marie

Recommendation: Upheld | Medium: General Public

The ASCI had approached the advertiser (yourself) for its response in addressing the grievances of the complainant and forwarded the details of the complaint, verbatim, to the advertiser with a request to respond to the same. The advertiser was offered an opportunity to seek an Informal Resolution (IR) of the complaint and a telecon with the ASCI Secretariat to seek further guidance, which they did not avail but submitted their written response. In response to the objection “I found McVitie's Wholewheat Marie… While going thru the ingredients, I observed that it has 46.8% Refined Wheat Flour (Maida) & 17.7% Atta. I feel the company has mislead me by mentioning in the packet "Wholewheat Marie…description in the wrapper. If I knew the biscuit was predominantly containing maida, I would not have bought it”, the Advertiser replied by saying that “the brand McVities Wholewheat Marie is a Registered Trademark of United Biscuits (UK) Ltd and that the device McVities Wholewheat Marie is also a registered Trade Mark. Hence, on this ground alone this allegation does not fall within the ambit of Chapter- I of The Code for Self- Regulation of Advertising content in India.” In response to the specific points raised by the Complainant with regard to the composition of the product, the Advertiser mentioned that “Wholewheat has been used as part of branding to suggest and build awareness among the consumers about McVities Wholewheat Marie biscuits being made of whole wheat flour as key ingredient besides refined wheat flour (maida). It is also to bring out differentiation between regular Marie made only of Maida without addition of wholewheat flour and McVities Wholewheat Marie having wholewheat as an essential ingredient. The brand has been coined to mean that wholewheat is essentially, fundamentally, basically and in essence a key ingredient of McVities Wholewheat Marie biscuits”. The Advertiser also added that they are in compliance with the provisions of the “Food safety and Standards Act, 2006, its Rules & Regulations, we have disclosed the percentage of wholewheat (wholewheat flour-Atta) used at time of manufacture of “McVities Wholewheat Marie” biscuits which is 17.7 % of the total ingredient, on this basis wholewheat has been emphasized as present in “McVities Wholewheat Marie” biscuits through the branding on the pack label”. In addition to this the Advertiser also provided a copy of the layout of the product packaging in support of the above submissions for the members of the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) to consider. The CCC viewed the details of information made available on packaging shared by the Complainant as well as the layout of the product packaging shared by the Advertiser, examined the details of the complainant’s objection to “McVities Wholewheat Marie being Misleading”, and considered the Advertisers response to the same along with images of trademark against McVities Wholewheat Marie being registered as a brand name. While the CCC accepted that this is a trademark however, it also considered that it creates a certain expectation in the mindset of the consumer when the trademark becomes a claim. TM carries a certain responsibility when the choice of the consumer depends on what the ingredient is. Unlike other ingredients, for whole wheat the expectation can be for it to be the dominant ingredient or the main ingredient as it forms the base of the biscuit and is not an add on or a flavour. Therefore, if the brand name is suggesting wholewheat biscuit, the expectation of the customer leads to the base being entirely or predominantly wholewheat. If that is of a considerably lower percentage than the dominant ingredient, then having an ingredient which is an add on, cannot be permissible to represent the product. In the current case, wholewheat is a differentiator, but is being used to make an advertising claim; that is misrepresenting and misleading by ambiguity and exaggeration to consumers and in contravention of Chapters 1.4 and 1.5 of the ASCI code. The objection raised by the complainant against McVities Wholewheat Marie was UPHELD.