WASHINGTON: The Sugar Association (SA) has signed Qorvis Communications to spearhead a new campaign combating claims made by Splenda, a sweetener made by McNeil Nutritionals.
The association filed a lawsuit against Splenda in December, contending it was falsely marketing itself as a "natural" product.
Qorvis is now trying to organize an anti-Splenda coalition. It has also launched a website, www.truthaboutsplenda.com, to disprove many of McNeil's marketing claims.
Andrew Briscoe, SA president and CEO, said the major messages of the campaign are that Splenda is not sugar, that it is not a natural product, and that it is treated with chlorine, making it an artificial, chemical sweetener. "We want to do everything in our power to communicate with consumers," said Briscoe.
The association spoke with five firms and narrowed the field to three before selecting Qorvis.
"We needed someone who understood the marketplace and wasn't afraid to be a little creative," said Briscoe.
Rich Masters, the Qorvis managing director overseeing the account, previously worked for US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana, a major sugar-cane-growing state, and so is familiar with issues affecting the industry.
"We envision this being a fairly long campaign because we've got to change a lot of people's opinions," said Masters.
Monica Neufang, director of communications for McNeil, said the company is aware of the new anti-Splenda website.
"There is no merit to the efforts being launched against the brand," she said.
With Splenda approved for sale in 80 countries, "the safety of Splenda is well documented," she added.
Splenda PR efforts are concentrating on discussing how the brand fits in the new federal dietary guidelines issued earlier this month, not in responding to the SA's charges.
McNeil works with RF Binder Partners, a Ruder Finn company.