The offending advertisements for the plant-based burger – originally posted on the social media sites Facebook and Twitter – drew attention to the absence of beef in the product and the fact they had been manufactured by Unilever-owned The Vegetarian Butcher.
One ad also carried a small disclaimer alerting consumers to the fact the burger was cooked alongside meat products.
The ASA was alerted to these ads after 10 complainants claimed they were misleading consumers into thinking the burger was suitable for vegans and vegetarians, despite the fact they were made with egg-based mayonnaise and cooked with meat products.
Burger King’s defence
In response to these claims, Burger King stated that the ads did explain the method of cooking in the small print, while pointing out that the product was 100% plant-based. It added that the information had been clearly communicated to journalists and all subsequent social media posts.
Burger King also pointed out that a consumer could opt to have the mayonnaise excluded from their order.
While the ASA considered that the ads’ claims of no beef in the products and plant-based burger would be understood by consumers to mean the product contained no animal products, the use of the Vegetarian Butcher logo – as well as the release to coincide with Veganuary – contributed towards the impression that the burger was suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
“We also understood that the complete burger contained egg-based mayonnaise,” the ASA added. “For those reasons the burger, as sold, was not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Not suitable for vegans
“While we noted … the qualification that it was ‘cooked alongside meat products’, we considered it was not sufficiently prominent to override the overall impression that the burger was suitable for vegetarians and vegans.”
Due to the overall impression from the ads was that the burger was suitable for vegans and vegetarians when in fact it was not, the ASA concluded that the ads were misleading – a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising)
The advertising watchdog ordered that the ads should not appear again in their current form and told Burger King to ensure they did not misleadingly imply that a product was suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Meanwhile, Food Manufacture proudly presents The future of plant-based proteins: roots of further growth, following the resounding success of sister brand GlobalMeatNews’ conference Shaping the Future of Plant-Based Protein last year.
We invite ingredients, finished product manufacturers, brands and retailers to attend this event at the Park Plaza Hotel, Amsterdam Airport on October 21–22 2020, to look at the most significant international start-ups and product launches from 2019-2020, plus emerging trends for the next 12 months.