Based on a recommendation from the Children's Advertising Review Unit, Kellogg Company will revise the packaging for its Fruit Flavored Snacks featuring cartoon characters to better convey the contents and avoid confusing children.

The packaging featured cartoon characters from popular children's film and television shows against a colorful background. A long strip around the product appeared with the following statements: "Assorted Fruit Flavored Snacks," "Naturally & Artificially Flavored," and "10 pouches." Under that, a large red apple was pictured with a statement on it reading, "Made with REAL FRUIT."

Underneath the apple in small typeface were the words "see side panel for details." Alongside the Nutrition Facts on the side panel was a disclosure stating, "Made with equal to 20% fruit."

CARU expressed concern that the "Made with REAL FRUIT" label within the image of the apple communicated the implied claim that the product contains substantial amounts of fruit, particularly as directed to a children's audience.

Kellogg disagreed. The claim was truthful, substantiated, and not misleading, the advertiser told CARU, and the use of the statement within the apple was simply "a truthful call-out" of the makeup of the product—not a statement on nutritional value. The advertiser also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists "pureed fruits" as part of the "fruit group" and the apple was used to convey the type of fruit in the product.

Emphasizing that children are "not just little adults" and require extra protections, "CARU found that one reasonable takeaway message was that the Kellogg's Fruit Flavored Snacks contain substantial amounts of fruit," the self-regulatory body wrote, highlighting the use of the apple.

CARU recalled working with marketers—including Kellogg—in 2005 to accurately describe what were then called "fruit snacks." At that time, the self-regulatory body recommended that "Made with real fruit" claims with accompanying depictions of real fruit, without accompanying statements of the amount of fruit juice, be removed so that children would not believe that these products were made with substantial amounts of fruit.

"Kellogg complied with these recommendations, but has since reformulated its Fruit Flavored Snacks to use fruit puree rather than fruit juices," CARU said. "The consideration of such a claim when the product contains fruit puree is therefore new."

Despite being a new formulation of the question, CARU reached the same conclusion. "While CARU does not believe that Kellogg intended to mislead anyone, children or adults, by the use of the apple containing the statement 'Made with REAL FRUIT,' it is well-settled that advertisers must substantiate all reasonable interpretations of its claims, even those it did not intend to convey," CARU said.

Because Kellogg could not substantiate the implied claim that the product is made substantially of real fruit (with fruit puree concentrate the third ingredient in the snacks after two non-fruit sweeteners), CARU recommended that Kellogg remove the "Made with REAL FRUIT" representation within the apple from packaging featuring cartoon characters that appeal to children under the age of 12.

In its advertiser's statement, Kellogg disagreed with CARU's ruling but said it would modify the product packaging.

To read CARU's press release about the case, click here.

Why it matters: Advertisers can take two lessons from the decision: a reminder that they are obligated to substantiate all reasonable interpretations of their claims—including messages they may not have intended to convey—and that a claim that is literally true may, in the context in which it is presented, still convey a message that is false or misleading.