In the flyers from Lidl the phrase ‘VOTED THE BEST! Source: Taste test by Consumers’ Association July/August 2014’ was printed above a pack of ‘Vanilla Cones’ ice cream. The following text appears below the picture of the package of ice cream: ‘Beats Ola and others and has “a tasty crispy cone”.’ Unilever, trademark owner of Ola Cornetto ice cream, filed a complaint about this with the Advertising Standards Authority (Reclame Code Commissie, or RCC).
The RCC ruled that in the text, the Consumers’ Association’s taste test is referred to as the source for the claims ‘Voted the best’ and ‘Beats Ola and others’ so that Lidl has, in and of itself, made it adequately clear on what sources these claims are based. It is also established that in this taste test, Lidl’s Vanilla Cones were given a ‘taste score of 7.2’ and the Cornetto from Ola (Unilever) received a ‘taste score of 7.0’, on the basis of which the Consumers’ Association concluded: ‘Lidl narrowly beats Ola!’
However, according to the RCC the taste test was not a regular (‘traditional’) comparative test by the Consumers’ Association which aims for objective results, but must be seen as a ‘simple taste test’. This is not necessarily an obstacle to mentioning the taste test results in an advertisement. The Advertising Standards Authority sees no reason to find that no value whatsoever should be given to the results of the test. What does follow from the foregoing is that the test has limited value, however. After all, according to the RCC it is a simple taste test.
Added to this is the fact that the test conclusion was not based on extensive research, but on a survey among 19 people. The results therefore reflect the personal tastes of this limited group of people:
The Advertising Standards Authority considered that Unilever had adequately demonstrated that a larger group of respondents (‘at least 40 to 50’) is necessary for a representative comparative taste test among consumers. The Advertising Standards Authority assumed that a professional organisation like Lidl is also aware of this fact, or at least should be, and must take this into account in the manner in which the taste test results are used in advertising.
However, Lidl’s text does not contain any information about the fact that a simple taste test involving a relatively small number of testers was involved. On the contrary, partly because of the certainty with which Lidl relies on the results of a Consumers’ Association test in the text, the impression is given that a regular test has been carried out, i.e. a large-scale test which yields an objective rating of the tested products by a representative test group and in which, as stated in the text, Lidl’s product was ‘voted the best’. The mere mention of a ‘taste test’ as the source of the claims contained in the text is insufficient to eliminate the aforementioned impression, according to the RCC.
The average consumer will therefore not realise on the basis of the text that a test of limited value was involved, and will base his decision on a misconception of what kind of significance the test result holds to the extent this is cited in the text:
It must be assumed that the average consumer will be influenced by this lack of information in his selection of this product. After all, if the consumer were indeed informed about the fact that a simple taste test was carried out among 19 people, he would have known that the test only reflects the subjective tasting experience of a small group, which means there is a real possibility that the result would have been different for a different/larger group.Furthermore, the tasting scores given in the test for Lidl’s Vanilla Cones (7.2) and Ola’s Cornetto (7.0) differ so slightly that at least among the group of 19 test people there was evidently no clear preference for one of the two ice creams.
Furthermore, the tasting scores given in the test for Lidl’s Vanilla Cones (7.2) and Ola’s Cornetto (7.0) differ so slightly that at least among the group of 19 test people there was evidently no clear preference for one of the two ice creams.
The Advertising Standards Authority considers the advertisement to be misleading and in violation of section 13, opening lines and (a) of the Dutch Advertising Code.
By Joost Becker