UCAN Can't Pitch SuperStarch Benefits, Says Class Action
Plaintiff claims the evidence points in the opposite direction
Cure for Spikes
In July 2018, a class action was filed against the defendant, The UCAN Co., which alleged that the defendant's marketing violated numerous states' Consumer Fraud Acts and unjustly enriched the defendant.
The complaint alleged that "[f]rom the serious beginner to the most highly paid professional, athletes are notorious for their susceptibility to being taken in by products that claim to improve performance." The products under scrutiny in this particular action are part of the Generation UCAN line: snack bars and drink mixes powered by a key ingredient, "SuperStarch," which is also available as a stand-alone powder.
SuperStarch – "an all-natural, slow-releasing carbohydrate" – is pitched as a bit of a miracle supplement; the UCAN website boasts that SuperStarch is "improving the performance of elite athletes, providing everyday athletes with healthy nutrition for workouts, even assisting children with a rare condition." The site goes on to claim that SuperStarch, unlike competing energy drinks, "provides sustained natural energy levels without spikes and crashes" by "uniquely" stabilizing blood sugar and causing "virtually no reaction from the fat-storing hormone insulin."
These broad claims promise the athlete spike-and-crash-free, improved workout capabilities and enhanced peak performance.
"In reality," the complaint claims, "according to laboratory tests and peer-reviewed research, ingesting the Products at recommended rates before and during exercise does not enhance performance and, in fact, impairs performance due to Product-induced increases in gastrointestinal distress."
Therefore, the complaint takes aim at UCAN's advertising, particularly its reliance on allegedly inadequately sourced and reviewed white papers which it claims were written by a member of the company's advisory board. What's more, the plaintiff cites the company's own description of SuperStarch against it: "SuperStarch is just ground up corn (non-GMO) that is cooked with a unique patent-pending natural process."
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the only peer-reviewed study cited by UCAN to address the benefits of similar compounds on athletic performance actually illustrates no benefit at all. The study, which pits a SuperStarch-like chemical against an artificial sweetener, actually shows that SuperStarch conferred no reliable performance improvements or fat-burning rates over the artificial sweetener.
As of mid-July 2018, there has been no response to the action. However, this class action will be an interesting one to follow as it once again demonstrates customers' willingness to scrutinize brands for their broad claims of product effectiveness and superiority while allegedly failing to substantiate such claims.