The cartoon character is seen stirring a cup of hot chocolate alongside the slogan and a Nutri-Start box referring to vitamin D, zinc and iron content.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned the advert for suggesting that the high sugar drink was a suitable breakfast option for children.
Asda denied any role in creating or approving the advert, which appeared on its own-brand labels on family-sized milk bottles.
“Nesquik’s old bunny hasn’t yet learnt new healthier tricks.”
- Malcolm Clark, Children’s Food Campaign
‘Physically active, energetic character’
Defending the advert, Nestlé argued that the bunny had been designed as a “physically active, energetic character who could promote a healthy lifestyle”.
The food manufacturer also said the “great start to the day” claim did not imply any health benefits, but actually reflected the enjoyment of having the drink for breakfast.
“They said that impression was enhanced by the fact the Nesquik bunny was smiling in anticipation of drinking the hot chocolate,” said the ASA ruling.
The ASA investigation began after campaign group Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign complained that the advert encouraged poor nutritional habits in children.
‘Hasn’t learnt new healthier tricks’
Children’s Food Campaign co-ordinator Malcolm Clark said: “Nesquik’s old bunny hasn’t yet learnt new healthier tricks.
“It is the second time in almost as many years that we have forced Nesquik to change their advertising because it encouraged poor nutritional habits in children and could be seen to mislead parents about the health benefits of such a sugary product.”
Asda denied any involvement and said Nestlé gave the advert to Asda’s milk supplier directly. A 200ml serving of the hot chocolate was found to contain more than 20g of sugar.
The ASA ruling said: “We told Nestlé UK Ltd and Asda Stores Ltd to ensure future marketing communications did not make general health claims in future unless they were accompanied by a related specific authorised claim.
“We also told them to ensure future ads did not encourage poor nutritional habits in children.”
“We are committed to advertising responsibly and as a result we are disappointed with the ASA’s ruling.
“The advert for Nesquik hot chocolate shown on the label of a family-sized bottle of milk was undoubtedly targeted at adults who were shopping for their family, making it clear that the product should be consumed over a number of days, rather than in excess.
“We therefore do not believe the advert encouraged poor nutritional habits in children.”
- Spokeswoman, Nestlé UK
Bunny in a box
- The Nesquik Bunny used to be known as Quicky in Europe
- The mascot first hopped onto TV screens in a 1973 commercial
- His jingle went “It's so rich and thick and choco-lik, that you can't drink it slow if it's Quik!”
- The bunny replaced France’s previous mascot, a fat yellow dog called Groquik
- Bunny merchandise has included toys, bobbleheads and mugs over the years