NAD draws a series of instructive distinctions in its ruling

Top Chef!

No one expects the internal deliberations of NAD to be turned into a reality show. But we edged closer to that territory when NAD featured a showdown between home cooking companies – Relish Labs’ Home Chef and Grocery Delivery E-Services’ HelloFresh. Both companies offer at-home meal kits, a recent development in cooking that makes consumers feel good about themselves and allows them to concoct healthy recipes within their own homes.

HelloFresh recently challenged Home Chef to an advertising battle royal. NAD was, as it so often is, the judge.

Meat Swap

Home Chef offers a feature called “Customize It,” which allows subscribers to swap a new protein into a meal kit that originally featured a different protein ingredient. A customer could, for instance, substitute chicken for pork in a given meal.

HelloFresh objected to Home Chef’s advertising about the feature, which allegedly claimed that consumers enjoy more flexibility with their service than with HelloFresh. NAD split its ruling. It believed that Home Chef could reasonably support its claims that “Customize It” offered more flexibility than HelloFresh’s offerings. But the watchdog presented concerns about how that flexibility was marketed, including phrases such as “more choices” and “new choices each week,” as well as “Rated #1 in Customer Satisfaction” claims.

NAD recommended that Home Chef add notices to its claims about “Customize It” on the webpages leading up to the subscription enrollment – notices explaining that the feature is limited to labeled meals, and that the options are limited to those selected by Home Chef.

NAD also recommended that price increases incurred by the customization choices be outlined in the pages.

The Takeaway

Diving deeper, NAD grappled with quantitative claims – for instance, Home Chef’s claim that it has “up to 26 choices with ‘Customize It’ vs. HelloFresh 18 choices.” In this case, NAD concluded that a consumer would reasonably suppose that “choices” meant “recipes” – and that “doubling” or “upgrading” of protein, in addition to certain add-ons such as beverages, weren’t new recipes and should not be counted among the overall tally of choices.

NAD also addressed a satisfaction claim, namely that Home Chef was “Rated #1 in customer satisfaction.” The watchdog recommended that a disclaimer be added to “make clear that this claim is based solely on a customer satisfaction survey of Home Chef customers’ experiences with the advertiser’s service and avoid the implication that customer satisfaction was directly measured and compared between the parties’ respective services.”

Home Chef agreed to abide by NAD’s recommendations. Altogether, the case summary is worth a read: It’s a copious grab bag of advertising no-no’s that would benefit any marketer to review. It is also interesting to read how these home-delivery food businesses seek to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market that doesn’t appear to be fading away.