The complaint, filed to the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) in March this year relates to adverts on UK retailer Asda’s own brand milk labels for Nesquik hot chocolate.
The adverts features the Nesquik bunny stirring a hot chocolate and bears the text “For a great start to the day!” and “Nutri-Start Vit D, Zinc, Iron; complementing milk”.
CFC challenged whether the advert encouraged good nutritional habits in children given the high sugar content of the product – a 200 ml serving contains 20.3 g of sugar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 4-6 year old children consume 19 g of 'free' or added sugars per day - about 5% of total daily calorie consumption.
The ASA upheld the complaint, ruling the slogan “for a great start to the day” unauthorised under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) that also implied Nesquik was suitable as a regular breakfast option. The watchdog found the cartoon rabbit was likely to appeal to children and the sugar content could encourage poor eating habits.
A statement issued by Nestlé UK said the company was disappointed with the ruling as it was committed to advertising responsibly. "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."
"We wholeheartedly believe that 'For a great start to the day!' is an appropriate statement. However, we always listen to concerns when they are raised. Therefore, as a responsible
manufacturer and to remove any ambiguity in future, we will no longer use the statement: ‘For a great start to the day!’ in our UK advertisements and are actively looking for solutions to help us reduce sugar.”
Old bunny...old tricks?
CFC coordinator 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.”
“Without stronger rules, more quickly enforced and with higher penalties for repeat offenders, there is little incentive for companies to improve their marketing practices. The government should no longer leave marketing rules in the hands of industry and advertisers, but take a stronger lead in its forthcoming obesity strategy and introduce tougher restrictions protecting children.”
Clark added: “Supermarkets also need to step up and take responsibility for the promotions that go on their shelves. Asda and other retailers should follow Tesco’s lead in asking more from the big brands they stock, and not being afraid to remove the most sugary products and promote the healthier alternatives.”
In 2013 CFC challenged claims Nesquik was “wholesome milky goodness for kids” and contributed to “a healthy balanced diet” given its sugar content.
The complaints were ‘informally resolved’ with Nestlé, causing the campaign group to accuse the ASA of bowing to the food behemoth. Nestlé later removed the 'wholesome' claims from its Nesquik UK website even though the ASA had not upheld a complaint.
The current ruling hinges around the nutrient profile of which products should be able to bear health claims. The NHCR, which entered EU law books in late 2007, stipulates that nutrient profiles should be established - in essence thresholds for ingredients like salt, fat and sugar above which claims would be prohibited.
Since then debate has raged about how to establish such thresholds amid concerns around, for instance, the difference between added and naturally occurring sugars, and remains unresolved.
In the absence of EU-wide guidance, member state authorities are free to establish their own view of what constitutes a healthy product, as is the ASA has done here.