'Flaming Hot’ NikNaks are hot enough, rules ad watchdog – even if some just taste tomato

Business Insider SA
The Simba flamin' hot snacks range.
The Simba flamin' hot snacks range.
  • South Africa's ad regulator has ruled that NikNaks' new chilli flavoured snacks have some heat and a distinct chilli flavour.
  • The snacks were criticised for having no chilli flavour, and merely tasting like tomato.
  • The ad watchdog's Directorate even conducted a taste test of their own and concluded that the snacks had enough of a chilli flavour.
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NikNak's new "flamin' hot" chilli-flavoured snacks have the right amount of heat, South Africa's Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) ruled, following a complaint that accused the snack brand of merely tasting like tomato.

In its latest consumer case, the ARB dismissed a complaint against Simba, whose NikNaks' "flamin' hot" snacks were blamed for merely being tomato-flavoured chips with "absolutely no heat".

Simba's Flaming' Hot chilli snacks are one of its latest flavour innovations, not only within the NikNaks brand, but also in Doritos.

In its response, Simba said that the spice level in its Flamin' Hot product was developed with younger consumers in mind, given that kids are Nik Naks' average consumers.

The ARB said that the product was not misleading and said children would require forewarning relating to the amount of chilli in a product as readily available for consumption.

"What may be negligible to the Complainant, who is an adult and self-confessed chilli lover, could be intolerable for a child. It could in fact be argued that if a product containing chilli was not clearly marked as such, it may be viewed as misleading for the consumer who is sensitive to chilli flavour or of young age," the directorate ruled.

However, for people who consume a lot of chilli, the "Flamin' Hot" phrase may be exaggerated.

The chip brand also argued that what is viewed as an appropriate level of spiciness varies among consumers who have unique personal taste preferences. 

"Any consumer will ultimately have a subjective view, informed by level of spice consumed on a regular basis over a period, to drive a unique personal taste preference," Simba said.

It said its product contains both chilli pepper spice and chilli extract and has a distinctive taste profile from traditional tomato seasoning.

The ARB's Directorate agreed with Simba, citing that the level of chilli flavour in the snacks is bound to be subjective. It even conducted a taste test among members and had varying reactions. Members of the directorate said the snacks were sweet; some said the chilli was mild, another needed a glass of water to tame the heat.

It concluded that the product does have some heat and a distinct chilli flavour.

At the time of the complaint, Simba said that it had received only 20 complaints relating to seasoning since it launched the products in June last year, representing a minority group of consumers.

"The conclusion thereby being drawn that the majority of the Advertiser's (Simba) consumers are satisfied with the product and it meets their expectations," the ARB said in its ruling.

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