Clif And Kind's Energy Bar Legal Battle Is Finally Over

Correction 4/18/22: An earlier version of this story attributed a press release to the Better Business Bureau; it is from BBB National Programs.

The issue originated with an advertisement that Clif Bar put out in 2021. The ad, which is currently still viewable on Vimeo, includes footage of Megan Rapinoe and Venus Williams, but the main star is arguably Clif Bars. People are seen handling and eating the product before or after they engage in jogging, dancing, weightlifting, or another energetic activity. "Let's keep moving with the ultimate energy bar," the voiceover suggests, "purposefully crafted with an optimal blend of protein, fat, and carbs."

As explained in a press release from BBB National Programs' National Advertising Division (NAD), this did not sit well with KIND, which lodged a complaint claiming that Clif Bar had to back up its assertions. Ultimately, the case called into question whether Clif Bar's statements fell under the category of puffery. Puffery, as described in the Better Business Bureau's code of advertising, consists of expressions of opinion that can't be meaningfully tested. Opinions, exaggerated bragging, and such phrasing as "best food in the world" often count as puffery, in which case they "are not subject to the test of truth and accuracy and would not need substantiation."

However, KIND's battle against Clif Bar ended with the NAD deciding that Clif Bar's advertising claims fell "out of the realm of puffery" and should have been supported by evidence. Such evidence would include information about competing energy bars, specific details about what makes the blend so optimal, and an explanation about how Clif Bar is indeed better.

Why didn't Clif Bar's claims count as puffery?

According to the NAD's press release, Clif Bar thinks the ruling is wrong but has agreed to cease using the pairing the phrase "The Ultimate Energy Bar" with "an optimal blend of protein, fat, and carbs," as recommended by the NAD. However, playing by the rules is not the same thing as not exaggerating. HBW Insight writes that Clif Bars doesn't have to cease using "The Ultimate Energy Bar" and "an optimal blend of protein, fat, and carbs" on their own. When used independently, they might still be puffery. But when juxtaposed, they were taken to mean that the details of the nutrient blend created "the ultimate energy bar."

The instance may be a squabble between Clif Bars and KIND, but it could have broader applications. Laura Brett, the vice president of NAD, told NutritionInsight, "If a practice is prevalent across an industry, bringing a NAD challenge can be an effective way for companies to take a proactive role in their industry to ensure that all companies are playing by the truth-in-advertising rules."