Salad spinner testing methodology evaporates under scrutiny, NAD says

Clashing Palates

By its own account, the National Advertising Division (NAD) pays close attention to quantified performance claims. The NAD has stated that quantified performance claims have “a strong impact … on consumers” and that such claims must “closely reflect the test results upon which they are based.” The NAD recently took notice of the challenge initiated by OXO International against one of its competitors, DKB Household USA, based on this precise issue. These two companies compete in a number of kitchen product lines and have a vested interest in ensuring consumers choose their product. In this case, OXO International argued that DKB Household USA made unsubstantiated claims about DKB’s salad spinner

Devant Moi, Le Deluge

At the heart of the challenge was a very specific quantified claim: that DKB’s Zyliss Swift Dry Salad Spinner “removes 25% more water” versus leading competitor products. In its decision, the NAD noted that the tag line and a number of variants were used on DKB’s website and product packaging and in trade demo videos. DKB responded to OXO’s challenge by providing a third-party test to back up its claims. However, the NAD determined that the testing was not sufficient to support DKB’s claims. The NAD analyzed DKB’s third-party testing and noted that there were three fundamental problems with the results. According to the NAD, the third-party test involved too small a sample size and yielded a wide variation in results. Given these flaws, “it is unlikely that the testing demonstrates a 25 percent difference in water extraction to a statistically significant degree.” DKB also tested its spinner against only two other products – OXO International’s and another competitor’s spinners – and this narrow testing did not sufficiently support DKB’s broad claims regarding its performance as compared to “leading competitors.” The most problematic issue for the NAD was that DKB’s third-party tests were conducted on simulated salad leaves made of cloth or sponges instead of actual salad leaves. According to the NAD, this study design violated one of the NAD’s principles regarding testing claims: “[T]he most reliable measure of a product’s performance is demonstrated by tests designed to test the product in the same manner the product is directed to be used by consumers.”

The Takeaway

DKB, while disagreeing with the NAD’s conclusions, agreed to its recommendation that it discontinue the claims. This case is an important example of the NAD evaluating a quantified performance claim and demanding that the testing provided as support be conducted in a manner designed to yield scientifically valid results. Companies seeking to make such claims should closely follow the NAD’s guidance and appropriately test their products before marketing strong performance claims to consumers. Undoubtedly, this area of self-regulatory enforcement will continue, and this decision highlights the NAD’s continued stance on product testing.