The Advertising Standards Authority recently investigated ads for candles on a “Neom Luxury Organics” website. The site said “The simplicity of it is that everything is organic and everything works as a treatment” But can candles be organic?
Who: ASA, NEOM Ltd t/a NEOM Luxury Organics
When: 9 January 2013
Law stated as at: 29 January 2013
A website ad promoting Neom’s “organic” luxury candles led to the ASA investigating whether the reference to the candles as “organic” was misleading and could be substantiated.
The website included a link to a video.
The video voiceover stated, “The simplicity of it is that everything is organic and everything works as a treatment. I was really inspired to create genuine, organic but really luxurious products.” An image of the featured candles was shown followed by other products, and the
video continued, “Women are able to enjoy skincare and fragrance products that are genuinely organic but also utterly luxurious and really enjoy them so you don’t have to choose between something that is synthetic and something that is organic and maybe not as
Candle manufacturing in general and particular
Most candles on the market are made with paraffin wax, synthetic fragrance and a variety of additives including wax bleaches, scent boosters and dyes.
NEOM Ltd (NEOM) stated that they had created a range of candles that was made using vegetable waxes and 100% pure essential oils. The candles’ compound was claimed to be 90–92% vegetable waxes and 8–10% pure essential oil.
According to NEOM, unlike candles made with paraffin wax, the by-product of their candles, when burnt, did not release any visible black
soot into the air. Therefore, by breathing in the pure essential oil fragrance, the company’s candles would work as an aroma therapy treatment. NEOM took this as a reason to name those candles “Organic Treatment Candles”.
“Organic” – formal recognition and the candle industry
A generally accepted standard for “organic” candles has not been approved yet.
NEOM met these circumstances by taking the generally accepted dictionary definition of “organic”. This one states “organic” as “produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals”. In NEOM’s opinion, the company’s candles meet this definition and NEOM provided a
declaration from the manufacturers stating the used wax was “organic” as the general definition requires.
Furthermore, they offered additional certification from several independent testing labs which stated that soya wax, which constituted 92% of the candle product, had been dermatologically tested, was kosher and GM just as free from pesticide and herbicide. Lab results were also supplied on the remaining fragrance ingredients which stated that the fragrance oils were natural and safe.
However, ASA stated that consumers would understand “organic” candles to mean that the product met an independently defined standard or used a high proportion of organic ingredients. Considering the absence of a defined “organic” standard, it was pointed out that the ASA requires evidence to demonstrate that the majority of the ingredients had been certified organic by an independent organic certification body. In the current case, NEOM provided several confirmations as seen above, but neither the reports from the lab tests nor the wax manufacturer’s documents referred in
any term to “organic” or “organic certification”. The reports also lacked any evidence that the soya bean ingredient met any agreed
Although the website included a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section explaining NEOM’s “organic” standard, ASA came to the
conclusion that this information contradicted rather than qualified the
“organic” claim in the main body of the ad.
In this FAQ section, NEOM explained that certification companies did not allow waxes to be classed as organic because of the process of turning oil into wax and that the company had taken the decision to refer to the candle products as organic nonetheless.
Even though the ASA acknowledged the additional information as being intended to explain that the “organic” description was not certificated under an industry standard, they stated that NEOM had not demonstrated that the candles were “organic”. Hence the “organic” claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
NEOM was told not to use “organic” in relation to their candles unless providing robust supporting evidence.
Why this matters:
Companies manufacturing products outside the safety zone “formally recognised organic standard” should give particular attention to being able to demonstrate that the majority of the ingredients of the “organic” labelled product have been explicitly certified organic by
an independent organic certification body.