ENERGY BAR AD CLAIMS CHALLENGED IN COURT

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An ad-claims scuffle that Powerfood and Mars Inc. brought to the National Advertising Division against upstart energy-bar maker Balance Bar Co. has landed in federal court.

Powerfood President Brian Maxwell said his company has filed suit in U.S. District Court, Oakland, Calif., against Balance Bar, claiming it hasn't adhered to NAD's ruling to discontinue ad claims that its brand is "clinically effective."

SEEKS CORRECTIVE ADS

Mr. Maxwell said Powerfood is seeking corrective advertising and an as-yet-undetermined amount of damages to compensate Powerfood for sales lost to Balance Bar as a result of the advertising.

‘‘We’ve spent millions in advertising our brand,’’ said Mr. Maxwell, whose PowerBar product last year showed $10 million in media spending, as measured by Competitive Media Rep orting. ‘‘Because of this [Balance Bar] advertising, over the last 18 to 24 months we’ve lost share to them,’’ Mr. Maxwell said, contending that Powerfood has lost about 20 percentage points of its market share ‘‘in a straight line’’ to Balance Bar since that company’s campaign began.

SUPERMARKET SALES UP 16%

PowerBar had sales of $29.9 million in supermarkets for the 52 weeks ended March 27, according to Information Resources Inc. That was up 16.4% over a year earlier, b ut the figure doesn’t include sales in health food stores, convenience stores and drugstores, where energy bars have their greatest strength. Balance Bar, for that period, showed $7.6 million in sales with no substantial changes, IRI said, because the brand was newly introduced to supermarkets.

A spokeswoman for Balance Bar, which spent $5 million in measured media last year, said the company has ‘‘absolutely’’ modified its advertising since the NAD ruling and added ‘‘the suit has no merit. We will defend it vigorously in court.’’

The Council of Better Business Bureaus’ NAD recommended in late February that Balance Bar modify its advertising. Balance Bar -- which changed its name from Bio-Foods in January -- agreed to ‘‘modify performance, weight loss, health, taste, market share and doctor/nutritionist advertising claims for its Balance Nutrition Bars,’’ said an NAD statement at the time.

The statement also said Balance Bar’s formula of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat was not proved to be ‘‘clinically effective for the general population,’’ which led NAD to recommend Balance Bar drop all claims referring to clinical studies and visuals of physicians in its advertising, handled by Buckley Freedman, Costa Mesa, Calif.

MARS NOT PART OF SUIT

Although Mars was a party in the NAD action, the company is not inv

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