Elaine Kolish, Associate Director for Enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said they had powers to remedy deceptive or unfair advertising or labelling in the form of:
- Cease and desist orders
- Court Order banning the advertisement
- Enforcing a corrective advertising campaign
- Enforcing refunds to consumers
The 2-step enquiry following a complaint first establishes how a reasonable consumer would perceive the suspect claims and then looks for competent and reliable evidence to substantiate this perception. If the claims are qualified, such qualifications must be prominent and presented in clear, easily understandable language and positioned near to the claim wherever it is made.
Some examples of problem claims are:
- “Environmentally Friendly”: needs qualification except in the rare event that the product is EF in all the ways a reasonable consumer might understand the phrase.
- If a “Green Award” is to highlighted, then an explanation of exactly what the award was for would be required.
- “Recycled or Recyclable” needs to be followed with a statement of which parts of the product or package are being considered and how the recycling is to take place. Recycling is assumed to be possible in the local community and in many cases a “Recyling may not be possible in your area” statement will be required.
- “Please Recycle” is regarded as a claim that the product can be recycled in your area.
- Use of the standard polymer identification symbol implies recyclability.
- “Biodegradable” is understood to mean that the product will disappear in reasonable time in a landfill. Because landfills are so variable this claim is rarely acceptable for solid waste stream disposal. The term can be used if the product is biodegradable in the liquid waste stream and is designed to be flushed down the sink or toilet.
- “Non-toxic” is understood to apply to all life-forms, not just humans and animals.
- “Made in the USA” implies all or virtually all domestic content and therefore negligible foreign content. Qualifiers are allowed e.g. “60% US content” or “Made in the USA from imported steel”, if truthful and backed by evidence.
- “New” used to imply that the product had been on the market for no longer than 6 months. Now with extended test marketing being common, the more liberal interpretation of a reasonable consumer is used.
In response to a question, Ms Kolish was not aware of any FTC thinking on “Flushability” claims. In fact she thought this was an area which need not concern them. Labelling a product as flushable when in fact it blocked drains was a sure way to lose customers.
David Savardi, also with Keller and Heckmann LLC , was a certified industrial hygienist and therefore well qualified to deal with the subtleties of antimicrobial product claims where the FDA and the EPA jurisdictions overlapped with regard to FIFRA. Pesticides were regulated by, and must be registered with, the EPA, but a pest was defined to exclude microorganisms on man, animals or on their processed foods. Such excluded products came under the FDA. In outline, if the antimicrobial claims were public health related then the FDA would be interested, otherwise the EPA. However:
- The use of antimicrobials in plastic chopping boards was investigated by the EPA because here they ruled that the antimicrobial was to protect the plastic, not the user of the plastic.
- The use of antimicrobials to protect paint and wallpaper from mould and mildew used to be a clear-cut EPA issue, but recently these moulds have caused allergic reactions so the FDA are taking an interest. No implication that such treatments can improve human health by reducing allergies is allowed.
A key issue is how reasonable people interpret any claim. “Antibacterial” is not acceptable to the FDA because it implies an ability to control a disease. “Antimicrobial” is acceptable so long as it is qualified to prevent anyone from inferring a public health benefit. In particular the wording must not create the impression that the article so treated provides protection against disease-causing bacteria. The FDA argue that “safe” levels of antimicrobial are insufficient to be effective against organisms other than those in direct contact with the article.
- Trademarks can imply bacterial control. “Microban” is a case in point, but here the EPA have decided to allow it given suitable qualifying phrases.
- Antimicrobial drapes and gowns used in surgery and other treated medical devices require approval from both the FDA and the EPA.
- Antimicrobial wipes cannot claim to control microbes on the surfaces wiped. The required 60 second plus contact time is never achieved in real-life wiping.
- Stating an article contains an EPA registered pesticide is misleading because it implies government endorsement of the article. Such a claim must clearly refer to the pesticide and not the article.
In response to questions:
- The EPA are getting less aggressive because they have lost a few cases recently. However they will not move to change their guidelines or streamline their approval processes until pushed hard. Unfortunately there is no public pressure for liberalising the use of pesticides even if they do improve the quality of life.
- Who should regulate the antimicrobials used in detergents to control microbes on clothing? That would be a pesticide, which would have to be registered with the EPA.
Substantiating Promotional Claims
Richard Mann of Keller and Heckman LLC pointed out that while obvious “puff” such as “best product in the universe” is allowable and does not need substantiating, any more credible claim does. Substantiation must be in place before any claims are made and he suggested that R&D, Legal and Marketing personnel needed to work together during the final stages of product development to make sure that the right claim-support data was obtained. Claims have to mirror the substantiation exactly: there can be no subtle broadening of the claim as “marketing-speak” replaces the technical facts.
The Law has an armoury against misleading claims:
- The US Constitution
- Federal Trade Commission Act
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
- Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)
- Federal Lanham Act
- Local (State) consumer protection laws
Anticipation of how the general public is likely to interpret a claim is essential, and here focus groups are a good approach.
In response to questions:
- Internet advertising is an area where foreign companies in particular appear to have scant regard for substantiation of claims. This does not mean that the Internet can be treated differently. Here the FTC is in catch-up mode, but they are chasing outrageous web-site claims and the only sensible approach is to regard your web-site as an extension of the packet label. In fact the printing of a URL on a pack can be taken to mean that the website is legally an extension of the label. As an aside, the FTC are also going after spammers and request all recipients of spam to forward it to UCE@FTC.com.
- The 30-minute TV “infommercials” are currently getting away with some outrageous claims: the FTC has them in its sights.
- “FDA Approved” is often misused as a claim. It must be made clear that the approval relates specifically to the process used to test the product and not to the product itself.
Elissa Sterry of ExxonMobil was unable to present her paper so C Dru Kephalos the moderator also from ExxonMobil did it for her. This detailed overview of the data used to arrive at ExxonMobil’s long-range view of global energy requirements contained the following highlights:
- Oil and gas will remain the primary energy sources through 2050.
- Coal is becoming more economic than natural gas for power generation.
- Auto gasoline use will continue to increase as engine efficiency gains are offset by increasing 3 rd world use of cars.
- Oil prices will increase steadily from around 2020 as more costly oil sources have to be tapped into.
- As demand rises above 2.5 trillion barrels/year(~2050), unconventional energy sources will have to be developed.
- Renewable energy use will increase dramatically to about 0.2% of total energy required.
- The growth in CO 2 emissions will continue unabated as China and India’s economies grow. (Coal use is increasing)
- The only technology likely to improve on current diesel or hybrid gasoline vehicles is the gasoline fuel cell. Hydrogen requires electricity or expensive fuel cells and will not be economically viable.
Hybrid Vehicle Energy Use compared with other technologies
Asked how polypropylene prices would move over this period, Mr Kephalos showed a slide to indicate they would depend totally on oil and gas prices, and therefore could be expected to increase over the time period considered.
High Performance Team Building
Jerry Ballas (Consultant, ex Manufacturing VP of Kimberly Clark and Scott Paper) described his experiences developing high-performance teams in the manufacturing sector.
Traditional organisations are function-focussed, with top-down goals to be achieved with limited information and a high degree of management control and direction. Their Control Paradigm involves Heirarchies, Top-down policies, Mushroom Management, and decision making by Bosses.
The High Performance organisation is customer-focussed with shared goals to be achieved with unlimited information availability and a high degree of worker commitment and empowerment. Its Commitment Paradigm is customer-driven, managed by principles, free with information, encouraging of constructive disagreement and allowing decisions to be made locally by the team.
Changing from one to the other is complicated and fraught with difficulties:
- Resistance to change: the leader needs to focus on a real external threat or opportunity, develop an inspiring vision, demonstrate confidence in the teams ability to succeed, set clear accountability for results and, above all, be the role-model for all of the above.
- Far fewer managers are required: such teams are 30-40% more efficient than traditionally managed teams.
- The team-leaders role inevitably leads to redundancy. The leader first leads, then participates in, then becomes a member of the now self-directed team, and finally moves outside it as the team becomes self-managed and hence fully empowered.
The key steps to the necessary empowerment are:
- Treating people with dignity and enhancing their self-esteem.
- Share information about the business, its goals and its customers.
- Focus on WHAT not on HOW
- Treat every mistake as a learning experience
- Create freedom by setting boundaries (“If the cliff-edge is fenced-off you go right up to it knowing you’re safe”)
- A fully empowered team is responsible for recruiting its own members.
- The leader of a fully empowered team is a boundary manager who provides feedback, resources, agreement on goals and support.
Leadership is the key to the change.
Asked how big or small these teams should be, Mr Ballas said 8-10 is ideal. However with a 4-shift system, each team covers all 4 shifts. So, much larger teams are necessary in practice – up to 18 per shift.
Failing to prepare the team-leaders for redundancy was the most common implementation mistake.
Professor Jim Crowell, MD of the Supply Chain Management Research Centre at the Sam Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas emphasised the growing importance of supply chain management, and described the CPFR system:
- CPFR® = Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment – a collection of business practices published by VICS (Voluntary Inter-industry Commerce Standards) to “facilitate collaboration between suppliers and retailers and to set standards for communication, data-flow and process on a global basis”.
- It uses the internet to “reduce inventory and expense while increasing sales and customer service”.
- They hope to halve inventory throughout the chain to around 70 days.
- E.g. HP and Compaq merger allowed Supply Chain
- The combined company spent $37 billion on direct materials
- Within 30 days of merger the new size was reflected in pricing.
- Operating costs were cut by $3.5billion, $1.55bn being supply chain costs.
- SCMRC are analysing data to improve order forecasting, especially to reduce the “bull-whip” effect where small swings in consumer demand are amplified by each step in the supply chain to yield massive swings in raw material suppliers orders.
- A white paper by SCMRC and the Retail Optimisation Council proposes the use of statistical models and probability theory to forecast what happens when a consumer is faced with price change, promotions or non-availability of goods. This should improve on the current method involving analysis of sales history.
So, focussing on demand could be better than focussing on supply.
Etienne Ficht of Fibertex A/S was asked to consider the relevance of globalisation to nonwovens producers. His long, carefully researched and thoughtful presentation drew on numerous academic, strategic and business sources and concluded:
- Companies now considered as “Global” have turnovers in excess of $1bn, employ upwards of 10,000 people of numerous nationalities in over 100 different countries, with multiple sites and facilities per country.
- While some of their customers are clearly global, nonwoven producers to date operate on an entirely different scale.
- The bottleneck does not appear to be availability of capital. NW companies no longer create new ideas internally so have to buy growth by acquisition.
So, globalisation may be a buzzword, but it is not relevant for the nonwoven industry. Nonwoven producers need to focus on accessing information and knowledge and expertise in people and in human relationships wherever they can be found.
Steve Grossman (Consultant) ran an extended Creativity Workshop because bad weather prevented the next speaker’s attendance.
- He defined creativity as ideation involving a change in perception and an act of recognition: seeing something others had missed.
- Classical “Brainstorming” rules hinder the creative process and if brainstorming works at all it is simply because it identifies numerous poor ideas which clear the way enabling the good one’s to be recognised later.
- Better to ask the future problem-solving participants to prepare 5 good ideas each and come to the meeting prepared to present them at the start.
- The forethought required prepares the brain, and when the prepared solutions have been dealt with, something like brainstorming can commence.
- The second sacred-cow of classical brainstorming – asking participants to suspend judgement needs to be dumped.
- The self-control required to suspend judgement inhibits creative output. People must be allowed to react to ideas as and when they wish.
- If being negative, they must identify at least one unique/useful aspect of the idea and then say what is missing: i.e. identify the opportunity that might lie within the idea.
All four corporate personality types need to be represented at creativity sessions. These are the Analyser, the Implementer, the Collaborator and the Imaginater, and they will of course need a disinterested Facilitator (a consultant perhaps) to keep order. When an idea worth funding emerges it must be sold to Management, another group comprising the four personality types. The presentations will therefore need adapting to deal with the needs of each of these types who should be approached individually to start with. Alternatively, the ultimate Decision Maker could take part in the Creativity Session if he agrees to be the most creative person present, and concentrates on finding value in the ideas of the others.
Beth High of SAS could not give “Implementation and Results of SAS's Idea Forum Project” due to flight cancellation. However the written paper was a Company Confidential “Presentation to Sponsors”, the most informative slide quoting SAS Worldwide Marketing's Strategic Advisor: “IF is a great source of out-of-the-box ideas….Whether the team's actual ideas are implemented or not is less important than the team's unique ability to stimulate creative thinking”.
Under the title “Improving the Bottom Line through Innovation: How Weyerhaeuser Did It”, Weyerhaeuser's Director of Pulp Product Development, Dr Peter Balousek provided an example of how everyone's natural creativity can be harnessed to save money in a 15 person sales office. Here innovative ideas for ways of working more efficiently were continuously but unofficially generated in a “safe haven” environment where everyone had common goals and was encouraged to initiate time and cost saving improvements to their daily tasks. $500,000 was saved in a year, which as Dr Balousek calculated, would be a $2 billion improvement in the bottom line if all 60,000 employees adopted the same approach. The written paper contained puff, a definition of innovation, and nothing about the study. A company spokesman admitted embarrassment.
P&G's Thermacare™ pain-relieving heat wraps were entered for the second year and this year the company was able to show new versions. In fact since Vision 2003, according to P&G presenter Andy Cipra, ThermaCare™ has become the US No1 over the counter external analgesic and is now in the top 10 products in the pain-relief category.
P&G's Thermacare Pain relief heat wraps
Karl Ronn, P&G's VP for Home Care R&D presented the Swiffer® Duster , a fluffy combination of polyolefin tow fibres and strips of lightweight nonwovens on a plastic handle, developed by Unicharm and licenced by P&G.
Kimberly Clark's Ed Leaphart passionately presented the Huggies Convertibles™ pull-up diaper, which can become a normal refastenable diaper when required.
Dr De-Sheng Tsai presented Easy-o-Fit™ face masks from Golden Phoenix Fiberwebs Inc. of Taipei , Taiwan . These all-in-one sonically-bonded die-cut laminates of gently elastic nonwovens had loops for the ears and when worn, conformed perfectly and comfortably to the contours of the face.
But the winner was… “Brillo Scrub'n'Toss”, a non-scratch, reusable nonwoven laminate intended to update and extend the old steel-wool Brillo Pad product line, presented by Dion Ross of Church and Dwight Inc. (See below)
Rory Holmes presents the Vision Award to Dion Ross
ExxonMobil showed impressively elastic spunbonds and films made from their new Vistamaxx semi-crystalline polyolefins. The plant to make these is under construction in Baton Rouge , and later this year this will be capable of producing ~100kta of pellets. The spunbond's elasticity derives from polymer crystallinity control enabled by the Exxpol metallocene catalyst and solution polymerisation reactor technology. It is not achievable using the traditional Ziegler-Natta catalyst system.
They also introduced their Achieve™ 6936G1 metallocene PP for meltblowing. With a melt flow rate of 1500, they expect improved processability into a wider range of meltblowns, with potential for better fluid barrier performance.
Georgia Pacific claimed to be close to having a flushable wet wipe based on dispersibility achieved by binder development.
Vinamul also claimed to have flushable binders under development but were concerned that the nonwovens industry would not entertain a premium for this improvement in quality. Apparently most consumers were already flushing whatever wipes were used in the bathroom and were unlikely to pay extra for something that might only reduce the already low frequency of blockages.
Sage Products were now operating their new 5.5 metre wide Dilo needlepunch line to make the rayon/lyocell/PET substrates for their Comfortbath range of microwavable bathing towels. The line was working at 1500-1700 lbs/hour throughput and 12 m/min. Two-thirds of the capacity of this new line was available for sale, suggesting that Comfortbath currently consumes 2000 tonnes/year of majority-lyocell blend. Sales of Comfortbath continue to grow, the latest success being the contract to supply the US Army in Iraq . Retail sales were developing slowly through Walgreens and more recently Wal-Mart.
Triad Disposables announced the opening of a dedicated wipes manufacturing plant in Wisconsin , with specific areas for handling flammable liquids and gels. This is their fourth plant. Personal care, Household and Institutional wipes will be produced in separate areas. Coincidentally a new PCMC RX200C Clipper installation in an older plant increases their capacity and allows the production of a wider range of wipes types and packaging.
Barnhardt Manufacturing were promoting the 2003 Nielsen study showing that 56% of mothers believe the baby wipes they buy contain cotton. When told that no cotton was in use in US baby-wipes, 45% thought cotton would improve them, 56% would prefer to buy a cotton-containing wipe, and 66% would be prepared to pay a premium for a cotton content. With regard to the cotton content of an improved wipe, the average expectation was for 56%.
Several of the contract packers were suggesting that the way forward involved developing higher value wet-wipes, the value arising from more effective lotions or from novel constructions e.g mitts.
Church and Dwight , along with their contract packer Pacon were showing the Brillo “Scrub and Toss” reusable multipurpose pads, said to be the first departure from steel wool in Brillo's history. Much thinner and more flexible than the sponge/abrasive cleaners of old, this rayon/pp thermalbond from BBA laminated to what looks like a singed blue polyester needlefelt targets a much wider range of cleaning jobs than the old Brillo product. Pacon, who were also showing wipes in mitt form, claimed to have co-developed 2 more of this years top 20 Vision Award finalists.
Church & Dwight Table - Scrub & Toss - Dion Ross
Golden Phoenix Fiberwebs Inc promoted their Bio-A-Safe™ Easy-O-Fit™ non-latex disposable facemasks. These were comfortable to wear, pleasingly-shaped masks apparently made from hydroentangled polyolefin (probably bico) fabric which had been point-bonded in a calender and with sonically bonded seams. The whole was gently elastic enough to stretch over the ears so that the mask closely fitted the whole face below the eyes. Dr De-Sheng Tsai, the inventor felt the fabric could be used in a wide range of products requiring low-modulus elasticity and within five years would be biodegradable as well. The elasticity seemed more due to the CD properties of the parallel-laid nonwoven than to any inherent elasticity in the fibers.