The Children’s Food Campaign investigation comes four years after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) first ruled that Nestlé’s claim – that people should “eat at least three portions of whole grain a day” – was misleading and should not be repeated. The ASA even uses the claim on its website as an example of bad practice.
In spite of this, the claim remains on Nestlé’s www.battleofthebreakfasts.co.uk website, to which readers are directed in current full page adverts published in a national newspaper. This is despite assurances from Nestlé to the ASA that it would comply with its previous rulings.
Nestlé makes the claim as part of its high profile advertising campaign about the nutritional value of its cereals. Following a complaint from the Children’s Food Campaign in May this year, the ASA reported concern and said that its ‘Compliance Team’ would “address the problem”. No visible action has been taken and Nestlé appears happy to ride roughshod over the regulator.
Malcolm Clark, Co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said:
“In this battle of the breakfasts, it seems the first casualty is responsible advertising. Throughout its marketing campaign, Nestlé has chosen to present a misleading impression of the nutritional value of cereals it targets at children. The amount of whole grain they may contain does not make up for the high levels of sugar and salt in many of these children’s cereals. Such cereals are not part of a healthy breakfast, as misleadingly presented by Nestlé.”
“A second casualty is the reputation of the industry regulator. Nestlé is a serial offender. We are truly shocked at the ASA’s inability to hold Nestlé to account – it’s the same company, the same products, and the same ineffective self-regulation.”
“If children’s health is not to be the long-term casualty of this battle of the breakfasts, then we need stronger rules on the marketing of unhealthy foods and a regulator that is more crunch and less soggy flakes.”
1. Battle of the Breakfasts website www.battleofthebreakfasts.co.uk. The 3-a-day claim can be found at the bottom of the ‘why breakfast?’ page
Full page advertisements pointing readers to this website were published in The Metro newspaper during the week of 20 August 2012.
2. In response to a complaint submitted by the Children’s Food Campaign on 29 March 2012 about misleading nutritional claims on the Battle of the Breakfasts website, the ASA responded on 18 May 2012, stating:
“We have already investigated and upheld complaints about this issue, and I‘m concerned to hear that advertising like this continues. I’ve therefore passed the case to our Compliance team, which will follow it up. The Compliance team doesn’t report to complainants or publish the details of its work, but it will address the problem.”
3. In a letter to Children’s Food Campaign on 14 August 2012, the ASA stated:
“We have had a number of discussions with Nestlé regarding the requirements of the CAP Code and the issues their advertising has raised under it. Nestlé has given us their assurance that they will work with CAP to ensure the claims on their website are compliant with the CAP Code and that any removal of or changes to claims that CAP require as a result of that will be applied across all their advertising. Because Nestlé has given us their assurance that they will work with CAP, and that any changes will be applied across all their advertising, we consider there is little to be gained from continuing with a formal investigation, which would achieve the same outcome.”
4. Nestlé first made the wholegrain 3-a-day claims in a broadcast advert in 2008. After complaints were received about the claim, the ASA investigated. The ASA’s ruling was that:
“The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 8.3.1 (a), (b) and (d) (Accuracy in food advertising)”.
The complaint was upheld and Nestlé were told not to repeat that claim in that form again. The Full ASA ruling below can be read on the ASA website.
5. In its 2008 ruling, the ASA explained the reasons for upholding the complaint on ‘wholegrain 3-a-day’:
“We understood, however, that there were no formal UK Government recommendations relating to the precise manner in which sufficient amounts of wholegrain food should be eaten on a daily basis; nor were there any current plans to adopt such a recommendation. We also understood that that was because the fibre found in wholegrain was available in a wide range of other foods, including fruit and vegetables, and that it might be preferable for consumers to get fibre from those sources, rather than from specific wholegrain foods that might contain other, less beneficial, ingredients. We considered that the ad implied that there was a consensus of opinion among experts regarding the specific quantity of wholegrain foods that should be consumed on a daily basis. However, we understood that only some experts had recommended that specific amounts of wholegrain should be eaten on a daily basis, and that others, such as the FSA, had made a broader recommendation that people should increase their intake of fibre in general. Because of that, and because we considered that the similarity between the "3-a-day" phrase used in the ad and the Government's "5-a-day" recommendation for fruit and vegetables could cause confusion among viewers, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
6. ASA Copy Advice on the Authority’s website specifically warns against Nestlé’s repeated claim as being misleading. The CAP Copy Advice website uses the 2008 ‘3-a-day’ case and adjudication as an exemplar of what not to do:
“CAP Marketers should avoid implying government recommendations similar to the 5 A DAY initiative. Nestlé was reprimanded for a television ad that claimed its breakfast cereals could help you “on your way to 3-a-day” for wholegrain consumption. Because no official government recommendation similar to that for fruit or vegetables exists for the consumption of wholegrain, the claim was deemed to mislead.”