The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.) looks at a truth in advertising dispute between marketers that is anything but sweet.
A battle between makers of artificial sweeteners stands to turn bitter next week, as a trial begins over what a judge has termed a veritable “sugargate.”
The fight pits Merisant Co., the maker of Equal and NutraSweet, against health-care giant Johnson & Johnson, which sells market-leader Splenda. Merisant alleges that a J&J consumer-products unit, McNeil Nutritionals LLC, deliberately confused consumers over whether Splenda is a natural product.
Splenda entered the market in 2000, touted as a breakthrough because the process used to make it includes sugar. Ads for Splenda carried the line “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” followed by “But it’s not sugar.”
Merisant alleges that Splenda sales shot up in 2003 after McNeil shifted marketing tactics to more aggressively — and inappropriately — tie Splenda to sugar.
For example, Splenda ads dropped the final “But it’s not sugar” statement from their tagline, and, around 2003, a new campaign took off that was packed with sugar imagery.
By the way, the term “Sugargate” really cheapens the whole “gate” meme.