Thursday, April 05, 2007

SMA plans new 'close to breastmilk’ launch following UK crackdown on claims

As we reported recently, the UK authorities have warned baby food companies that they must stop making claims about their products prohibited by the 1995 UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. This is an acknowledgement that Baby Milk Action’s monitoring and reporting of aggressive marketing practices over the 12 years since the law was introduced was correct.

Companies have said they will change their labels (unlike in the Philippines where some of the same companies have taken the government to court following its new regulations – the regulations there have been suspended).

Wyeth (makers of SMA formula) will shortly be launching new labels.

The new labels claim the milk has ‘improved protein balance’ – a claim that is not on the permitted list – and will be the basis of a promotional campaign being rolled out over the coming months.

On its website its is claimed that SMA infant formula:

“SMA Gold has the right balance of nutrients, to be as close to breast milk as possible, to support your baby's natural growth, development and immunity.”

Again, these claims are not on the permitted list and so are illegal. The Food Standards Agency wrote to the companies at the turn of the year pointing this out to them.

Will the authorities take any action now a new promotional campaign is being planned with illegal claims?

Health workers are being targeted by Wyeth to promote the milks to mothers. The campaign is based around a change to the protein formulation. So while formula-fed infants will still be at greater risk from short and long-term illness, Wyeth will use its ‘close to breast milk’ campaign to imply the difference is slight. Remember, the Department of Health found in a survey in 2005 that 34% of women incorrectly believe that formula is the same or almost the same as breastmilk.

Here is the way Wyeth is exploiting the need to change its labels brought about by the crackdown by the UK authorities in promotion to health workers:

Health workers are being invited to seminars to learn about Wyeth's changes so they will promote its 'improved protein balance' to parents. We are not going to put up Wyeth's idealizing and illegal claims without accompanying analysis. But if any journalists would like to investigate this issue, please do contact me.

Wyeth claims that it is aiming for the gold standard of breastmilk. Its marketing experts no doubt advised it long ago to give the impression they had reached it by naming its infant formula SMA Gold.

But it doesn't stop there. Remember that infant pictures and other idealizing images are banned from labels?

Wyeth marketing people have come up with a cunning plan which they think gets around that by redesigning their logo.

Here is part of the new SMA logo.

What does that remind you of?

Surely it just a coincidence that it looks like a mother breastfeeding? That would give the subliminal impression that SMA formula is somehow the same as breastfeeding.

Surely the highly paid marketing people who came up with the change had something else in mind?

Here is the full infant formula logo.

These people, eh! Tell them they are breaking the law and they respond with more aggressive marketing.

Oh! Just to finish. The marketing people have come up with a new slogan for the label. It used to be 'Now even closer to breastmilk'. They were told by the Food Standards Agency that this is an illegal claim.

So they have changed it. The new labels have the slogan: 'Love the milk you give'.

Great slogan for creating brand loyalty. 'Love the milk you give'.

But the reason there are marketing regulations is companies are not only competing with other breastmilk substitutes, they are competing with breastfeeding. That is why the preamble to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes states: "the marketing of breastmilk substitutes requires special treatment, which makes usual marketing practices unsuitable for these products."

'Love the milk you give'. They didn't come up with that one by accident.

Well, that is it for a while. It is the long Easter weekend in the UK. So the blog and my weekly podcast will appear on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is apauling that they are allowed to use the new logo. More needs to be done to show that Formula should never be first choice over breast milk. This way of marketing is adding to children being obese, and having other health problems later on in life. And the "follow-on-milk" *rubbish* is just a way to get around being able to market the artificial stuff! i could go on, but i have an 11 and a half month old who is needing a breastfeed! Sarah