Ad Watchdog Intervenes In Dispute Between Campbell’s And Progresso Over Local NJ Ingredients

Does Progresso soup come from an agrarian paradise where all of the ingredients are locally harvested and lovingly stirred into small batches of fresh, tasty soup? Not really, no, except for the “tasty” part. Progresso, owned by General Mills, has a series of ads airing that feature this faux-farmer’s market back story, and their national canned soup competitor Campbell’s isn’t buying this back story. Campbell’s took their issue with the spot to the ad industry’s self-regulation mechanism to sort out their differences.

The National Advertising Division, administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, is where companies take their disputes over ads before getting, say, the Federal Trade Commission involved. They investigate claims made in ads, and companies can agree to or dispute their conclusions.

In this soup dispute, Campbell’s claimed that Progresso was saying or strongly implying in the spots that their soups are all produced in their headquarters town of Vineland, NJ, and that the meats and produce used in the soups also come from the area. Vineland is south of Philadelphia and east of Dover, DE, and while there are farms in New Jersey, it’s unlikely that all of the ingredients in Progresso soups come from there.

Some of the ads are still online: we can’t embed all of them, but you can watch one for the company’s line of light soups here, and one claiming that the best ingredient for delicious minestrone is dirt here.

The NAD ultimately concluded that the ads do imply that “all or most” of the company’s ingredients are locally sourced, and determined that General Mills should either stop airing them or modify them to appeal less to a locavore aesthetic.

How Progresso got its start

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