Oat Milk Drops Sugar Claim After Complaint

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Jul 15, 2019

Oatly Inc. has agreed to drop claims of “no added sugars” from labeling and advertising for its oat milk after a challenge from Campbell Soup Co., maker of rival Pacific Foods.

Oatly had been touting the purported lack of added sugars in its oat milk with phrases such as “No added sugar(s)” and “We don’t add sugar (We thought it was worth repeating).” This played off a line from its Nutrition Facts panel, revamped in accordance with recently revised FDA guidelines, that shows no added sugar.

However, Campbell Soup complained to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, formerly the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, that the claim was misleading. Campbell contended that the process by which Oatly breaks down oats creates sugar “in situ” through hydrolysis. Oatly’s “Barista Edition” oat milk has 4g of sugar per serving while claiming no added sugar; Pacific Foods “Barista Series” oat milk has 3g, all of which is listed as “added.”

Oatly responded at first by claiming that it was justified in simply repeating what the FDA allows it to claim on the Nutrition Facts panel. However, the National Advertising Division ruled that “when the Nutrition Facts Panel is restated and used in advertising, its purpose is not compliance with FDA rules, and it can be treated as a paid commercial message,” and recommended that Oatly stop doing so. Oatly agreed to comply with the recommendation.