Swedish dairy company Arla has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Agency in the UK over an advert for its Rosenborg blue cheese following a complaint from the Stilton Cheese Makers' Association.
The advert featured a photograph of wedges of cheese arranged on a red oblong tray to resemble the Union Flag and carried the statement 'Rosenborg. Britain's Favourite Blue Cheese Brand'.
The Stilton producers objected to the advert on two grounds. Firstly, they said that the claim was misleading because they believed more Blue Stilton than Danish Blue was sold each year in the UK. Secondly, they claimed that the photograph misleadingly implied that Rosenberg was produced in the UK.
Arla claimed that it had sought advice about what it could and could not say on the advert about Rosenborg's popularity in the UK. The company went to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) which told it that if the company had evidence that showed Rosenborg was the top-selling brand of blue cheese, the claim should be acceptable.
To support this claim, Arla presented a graph, compiled by an independent market information company, showing brand value performance for 12 brands of blue cheese. According to that graph, Rosenborg was the top-selling brand.
But the UK producers' association disagreed. Stilton, they said, is a Certification Trade Mark and only products that meet the requirements of that Certification Trade Mark can be labelled as such, effectively making Stilton a brand name. Moreover, they said, Stilton was a guarantee of origin and quality, was widely advertised and promoted and was widely recognised.
They also showed data comparing the sales figures for Stilton Blue and Danish Blue over both 52 weeks and 12 weeks, and in both cases, the British cheese consistently outsold its Danish counterpart.
While the ASA recognised that Arla's data clearly showed Rosenborg outselling the 11 other blue cheese brands, it also believed that consumers would be misled into thinking that it also outsold Stilton Blue because of the wording of the advert. Because it did not, the ASA concluded that the claim was misleading and asked the company not to repeat it.
As far as the second complaint was concerned, Arla said that it had used the photograph of the cheese flag to illustrate the claim regarding Rosenborg's popularity in the UK, and that the advert nowhere referred to where the cheese was made. Moreover, the cheese packaging, which was shown in the advert, stated clearly that Rosenborg was a Danish Blue cheese.
The advertising authority considered that the photograph as a whole misleadingly implied that the product was British, although it accepted Arla's proposal to clearly state 'Product of Denmark' in a bid to remove this implication.