McCain Foods ordered to cut chip ads over 'number one' claim

28 February 2019 - 06:30 By Wendy Knowler
McCain Foods claims in this advert that it produces the country's "number one" chip.
McCain Foods claims in this advert that it produces the country's "number one" chip.
Image: Supplied

What is South Africa’s number one chip?

McCain Foods claimed to be the country's favourite when it plastered its “fry chips” on a billboard - and made the same claim on Facebook.

But this week the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) told them to remove the ads with immediate effect because the claim is simply not true.

The board found that McCain's claim of being “number one” is misleading because their chips are only the country’s best-selling frozen chip; not local consumers' preferred chip overall.

We know this because Steers owner Famous Brands lodged a complaint about McCain’s claim, arguing that sales of fresh chips in South Africa far exceeded frozen chips.

Steers has won the Leisure Options Award for the Best Chips for 16 years running.

Neither of McCain’s adverts made it clear that the company was referring to frozen chips only - or that the claim was based not on quality but on market share in that category, said Famous Brands.

McCain argued that its use of a photograph of an individual chip, broken in half, was for creative purposes, as a straight chip would have had less effect on consumers. It denied that this feature, or any other feature of the advertisements, suggested that the company was claiming that its chips were superior in terms of quality.

An asterisk featured next to the “SA's no. 1 chip” claim leads to a disclaimer reading: “Aztec market share data – sales volumes”.

While the disclaimer may be barely legible in the Facebook advert, the regulator said in its decision that “it seems highly unlikely that a person driving past one of the billboard advertisements would be able to read it, given the small size of the font in relation to the rest of the billboard”.

“This means that the claim on the billboard could be interpreted to refer to consumer preference rather than market share,” said the ARB.