A radio ad for the UK-headquartered coffee chain, heard in the UK in June, featured a voice-over that stated: "Oh, there's a great deal on ripen at home avocados. Sure, they'll be hard as rock for the first 18 days, three hours and 20 minutes; then they'll be ready to eat, for about 10 minutes, then they'll go off.
“For a better deal head to Costa Coffee and grab a delicious, piping hot bacon roll or egg muffin for just £2 when you buy any medio or massimo hot drink or flat white before 11am".
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the advert suggested that a bacon roll or egg muffin was a better alternative to avocados, and discouraged the selection of fresh fruit.
The frustrating and unpredictable avocado
Costa Ltd said its ad centred on the frustration and unpredictability of the avocado. It said consumers had shared comical anecdotes on the unfortunate issue of ripening, as they struggled to agree on how to ripen the fruit and the best time to consume it.
Costa said it was not suggesting people make a definitive choice over two breakfast items, but instead suggested that they had a promotional offer to satisfy breakfast requirements.
Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, believed the ad did not breach the code because it was unlikely most consumers would regard the ad as a serious comparison between bacon rolls or egg muffins and avocados.
But the ASA disagreed, saying that consumers would interpret the ad as a comparison between the two breakfasts.
The Code: Fresh Fruit
‘Comparisons between foods must not discourage the selection of options such as fresh fruit & vegetables, which generally accepted dietary opinion recommends should form a greater part of the average diet. Ads must not disparage good dietary practice. No ad should suggest that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide adequate nutrients in general’. BCAP 13.5
“We noted the ad placed emphasis on negative aspects of buying avocados, albeit in a light-hearted way, such as waiting for them to ripen, and the time frame within which they could be eaten once ripe.
“That contrasted with the positive language used to describe Costa’s own breakfast items, which were described as offering ‘a better deal’.
“Although the ad was light-hearted, it nevertheless suggested avocados were a poor breakfast choice, and that a bacon roll or egg muffin would be a better alternative, and in doing so discouraged the selection of avocados.
“We concluded that the ad discouraged the selection of fresh fruit and therefore breached the Code.”
In August Coca-Cola announced it will acquire Costa from Whitbread PLC for $5.1bn.