The advert (aired between November 2010 and February 2011 on television and video on demand (VOD) services), showed various people, including children, preparing toast with Ferrero-owned brand Nutella before leaving for work or school, while a voiceover stated:
“More and more families are discovering Nutella. Each 15g portion contains two whole hazelnuts, some skimmed milk and cocoa. And Nutella releasesits energy slowly. Wake up to Nutella.”
Which? complained about the advert on the basis that, firstly, it was misleading because it did not make clear that Nutella also contained a high proportion of sugar (55%) and fat.
Secondly, the consumer watchdog said the advert was was likely to encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle, especially in children.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The ASA’s failure to ban the Nutella advert is a huge disappointment.
“We think it is completely unacceptable to position a product packed with fat and sugar as a suitable breakfast for children, and only to refer to the healthier ingredients it contains.
“With child obesity rates at a record high, food companies must promote their products more responsibly, and the regulator must get tough on adverts to ensure consumers aren’t given the impression that products are healthier than they really are.”
A Ferrero UK spokeswoman said in response: We are pleased with the ASA ruling as we believe that Nutella, as a hazelnut spread, can be eaten as part of a good breakfast and our latest advertisement was carefully developed with this in mind.
“Explaining clearly and responsibly, the nature of our product and the importance of breakfast are our key advertising objectives, and we are glad that the ASA has recognised this in their assessment."
Responding formally to the ASA, Ferrero said the content and scheduling of Nutella adverts was restricted, due to its status as a HFSS (high in fat, salt, sugar) product.
The company also said it had policies relating to health, obesity and child hyperactivity, and had not realised (until the ASA drew its attention to complaints) that it was not possible to fully control VOD advert scheduling.
As such, if company policies had applied, the advert would not have been aired online in or around the programme Jamie’s American Food Revolution. Ferrero said it had subsequently decided not to advertise Nutella via VOD services in future.
Ferrero said that the advert was meant to highlight the “true nature of the product” in terms of composition, with parents the target audience, and that it was important to consider sugar and fat content in regard to a typical 15g portion size.
The firm added that its advertising meant to stress the importance of breakfast, with Nutella a low GI food that released energy slowly, where the advert suggested that parents might consider spreading it thinly on wholegrain toast for children.
Rejecting the complaints, the ASA said it considered the “overall impression” of the advert was such that viewers were unlikely to interpret that Nutella should be consumed in excessive quantities or eaten daily, or that it was misleading in terms of constitution.
“We ... also concluded that it was unlikely to encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children,” the ASA said.
But the Children’s Food Campaign said that the ASA had led Ferrero off the hook. Co-ordinator Christine Haigh said: “This ad clearly targeted children, and encouraged them to eat this 86%-fat-and-sugar spread for breakfast. With the UK facing record levels of childhood obesity, we need a regulator with teeth, not one that is funded by and defends the industry it is meant to regulate.”