The complaint, made by a member of the public, referred to a TV advert for a range of ham which stated that Denny Deli ham was "still the only ham with no artificial additives no artificial preservatives." A product image was shown at the end with the statement: “we are the only 100% natural ingredients ham” on the packaging.
The complainant questioned whether Kerry Foods could back up this claim.
The most commonly used ingredients in converting pork to ham are phosphates, sodium nitrite, sodium chloride, sodium ascorbate and dextrose, which must be listed on the ingredient list. The Irish company, headquartered in Tralee, told the ASA it had removed the above ingredients and replaced them with natural ones.
It argued that, given the significant competitive advantage of a natural claim as well as the reformulation costs that must be incurred in order to make such a claim, it was highly unlikely that other manufacturers on the market would have developed the technology without drawing attention to the naturalness on pack.
Kerry Foods said it worked with market research agency Mintel during the launch of the product, which conducted market trawls in Ireland to ensure no other products were claiming to be natural. The last market review was conducted in May 2014 during which over 200 ham products were verified from retail chains. Convenience stores and small independent shops were not included on the grounds that any products they stocked were likely to also be available in the larger retail channels.
The ASA ruling said: “Although we noted that some convenience chains or smaller independent retailers had not been included in the market trawl results, given that the ingredient sodium nitrite was traditionally used in ham manufacturing and that production without the use of artificial ingredients was inherently difficult, we considered that the evidence provided was adequate to substantiate the claim. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.”
A spokesperson for Kerry Group told FoodNavigator that the proprietary ingredient, which can be listed as natural on product labels, is available worldwide to customers of its ingredient supplier division, Kerry Taste and Nutrition.
It is offered to consumers in the product Denny’s Deli Style ham which is available for sale in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Earlier this year a report by research company Future Market Insights (FMI) said that demand for natural preservatives is on the rise, fuelled in particular by rising demand for organic food.
Globally, natural preservatives accounted for 12.9% of the market share in 2013-14 but this is expected to increase to 13.6% by 2020 while the market for artificial preservatives - despite accounting for 87% of the total market revenue share - is expected to drop, according to FMI data.