The United States Department of Agriculture is being asked to explain why it approved a “Wood Milk” campaign for the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program—known as MilkPEP—that a nonprofit group claims is designed to mock plant-based milk.
In a complaint filed last week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) also asked that the campaign -- featuring actress Aubrey Plaza -- be withdrawn.
MilkPEP is funded by the USDA’s Checkoff Program, which promotes and provides research that is supposed to avoid maligning competitors and influencing government policy.
In its complaint to the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, PCRM alleges that the “Wood Milk” campaign does both.
This commercial opens with Plaza introducing herself as the co-founder of Wood Milk, “The world’s first and only milk made from wood.”
She goes on to explain how trees at the fictitious Wood Milk Orchards are grown and then “squished into a slime that’s legal to sell.”
When Plaza drinks from a glass of Wood Milk, she gets the white moustache first seen in the California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign.
As the spot ends, she asks “Is Wood Milk real? Absolutely Not. Only real milk is real.”
According to PCRM, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service should not have approved the campaign, which has been running during the public comment period for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance on plant-based milk labeling.
The comment period ends July 31.
The PCRM contends that the campaign was designed to elicit “backlash” against plant-based milk.
The USDA’s Checkoff Program prohibits MilkPEP from engaging in “any advertising that may be false or misleading or disparaging to another agricultural commodity,” PCRM said in its complaint.
The organization wants to know why the campaign was approved, that it be halted, and that MilkPEP issue “corrective advertising that refutes the campaign’s disparaging comments about plant-based milks.”Asked to comment on the matter, MilkPEP CEO Yin Woon Rani tells Marketing Daily “We cannot speak to the details of the pending complaint. Questions related to the complaint should be directed to USDA.”