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Glazer: Beware of many juiced-up claims
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Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

More and more products seem to be hitting the market sporting claims that are, well ... questionable.

Take for example, Nutella.

It’s that creamy, premium-priced hazelnut and chocolate flavored bliss-in-a-jar. An unlikely small-sized serving, two tablespoons, contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat (3.5 of them saturated), and 21 grams (5 teaspoons) of sugar. That’s about the same as a candy bar.

So what does the parent company, Ferrero, decide to do? Why, market their product as a healthy breakfast alternative, of course.

Honestly, I don’t know how these promotions ever get off the drawing board. The first time I saw their ad, I wondered if I was watching prime-time TV or a “Saturday Night Live” satire of a commercial. I kept waiting for the punch line.

The commercial features a woman with a passel of kids and a yappy dog running circles around her. She smiles sweetly and says, “Breakfast? In this house? In the morning, I can use all the help I can get. That’s why I love Nutella, a delicious hazelnut spread that’s perfect on multigrain toast and even whole wheat waffles. It’s a quick and easy way to give my family a breakfast they’ll want to eat. And Nutella is made with simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa. They love the taste, and I feel good that they’re ready to tackle the day. Nutella — breakfast never tasted this good.”

The last image is of a piece of hearty whole grain bread spread with a hefty swipe of Nutella, sitting alongside orange juice, milk and a bowl of fruit. So, really, all the healthy nutrition comes from the foods positioned around the product, not the product itself.

I remarked to my husband that the company had some nerve peddling fat and sugar paste as a health food. He said he’d just as soon have SNL’s “Little Chocolate Donuts — the breakfast of champions.”

I love Nutella on gingersnaps but I’ve never tried to convince myself that it’s anything other than an indulgence.

A couple of moms in California didn’t just shrug it off. They sued. And in a class action settlement, the makers of Nutella finally agreed to pay $3 million. Of that, $2.5 million is going to consumers, to the tune of a $4 per jar refund. Just go to nutellaclassactionsettlement.com to claim a refund on up to five jars.

Somehow I don’t think the Nutella folks are particularly bothered by this wrist slap. By the time the suit was filed, legions of kids (and adults, too) had made Nutella on toast an irrevocable part of their morning routine. $3 million is simply the cost of doing business.

And then there’s Skechers.

Skechers billed its $100 curved sole Shape-up shoes as a fitness tool designed to promote weight loss and tone muscles, saying the shoes provide natural instability and caused the consumer to “use more energy with every step.”

Personally, I’d rather have shoes that decrease my considerable “natural instability” not the other way around.

That paragon of health and fitness, Kim Kardashian, appeared in a 2011 Super Bowl commercial announcing that she’d fired her personal trainer.

“Bye-bye, trainer. Hello, Shape-ups,” she cooed.

Of course, if’s just human nature to gravitate to the easy fix. People would love to believe they can shell out a C-note and in no time have the curves of a Kardashian or the physique of former quarterback Joe Montana who was also featured in Skechers ads.

Everybody was buying in. Except for the Federal Trade Commission.

It questioned the so-called research proving the shoes provided any benefits above and beyond those of standard exercise shoes. According to the FTC, two of the four supposed studies that claimed Shape-ups were beneficial were conducted by a chiropractor who was married to a senior vice president of marketing at Skechers, a potential conflict of interest.

An FTC spokesman said, “The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health. The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.”

When the dust settled, Skechers had agreed to pay $40 million to settle FTC charges. Partial refunds are available to individuals who purchase Shape-ups and related products by going to skecherssettlement.com and filling out a form. Receipts are not needed for claims under $200.

Again, I doubt Skechers is too very upset. They probably sold a kajillion pairs of shoes in the days following the Super Bowl. $40 million? Chump change.

And we’re the chumps.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.