The television advertising for Nutella centred on people in the kitchen of their own homes, eating Nutella for breakfast. One person spreads it on a crumpet, another has it on toast with strawberries, one dunks a spoonful in their porridge, while another has it on toast topped with bananas.
The family scenes were accompanied by a male voiceover as follows:
“Morning Becky, Naoise, little David and big David. Siobhan, everyone who spreads us, dunks us, sprinkles us and ever so carefully covers us. Thanks for having us around for breakfast. Wake up to Nutella the hazelnut spread.”
The advertisement was accompanied by the on-screen legal super text “Snacking on sugary foods and drinks can damage teeth.” 1
The closing scene featured a jar of Nutella on a breakfast table accompanied by three hazelnuts alongside. A slice of toast spread with Nutella, some bananas and a glass of milk also featured on the table.
1 This reference is in accordance with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Children’s Commercial Communications Code. Page 12 (Section 9).
The complainant considered that a genuine hazelnut spread should contain nuts as its main ingredient, similar to a peanut butter product. The product in question, however, she said was a hazelnut chocolate spread, a fact that was omitted from the advertisement. She said that in her opinion the main ingredient of Nutella was sugar, which was proven to contribute to obesity and diabetes. In marketing the product as a suitable breakfast food for adults and children, the complainant considered the advertisement to be misleading, as the true ingredients had not been included.
The advertisers said they were committed to responsible advertising and worked to ensure that their marketing communications for food products were directed primarily to adults responsible for making household purchases. They said that while the Nutella product contained cocoa it did not in fact contain chocolate. Cocoa and chocolate were both very different products, they said, due to the way they were used and consumed. They accepted that the product had been referred to as “Nutella, the hazelnut spread” rather than the hazelnut spread with cocoa. They said, however, that the reference to ‘hazelnut spread’ was spoken whilst an image of the jar was held prominently on screen for the final six seconds of the full 30 second advertisement. The image of the jar had featured the full product description including the fact that it was a “hazelnut spread with cocoa.” This imagery had also briefly featured in the opening seconds of the advertisement.
The advertisers said that it was the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States that the total overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating. All foods can fit within this pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity. The Academy they said strives to communicate healthy eating messages that emphasise a balance of food and beverages within energy needs, rather than any one food or meal. They said that this is the approach they observed as advertisers when advertising their products. The recommended serving for Nutella was the serving shown in their advertisement i.e. 15 grams, which contained only 4% of the referenced intake for calories and only 9% of the referenced intake for sugar. Furthermore, they said, the Food Pyramid published by healthpromotion.ie made room for products containing sugar in small quantities as part of a balanced diet; this is how Nutella is intended to be consumed and indeed how it was shown being consumed in their advertisement.
In conclusion the advertisers said that while they had not referenced the sugar content in Nutella, there was no general obligation to provide a full list of ingredients in any product, within the context of a television advertisement and this information was featured on the product itself and also on the advertisers’ website.
Complaint Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They accepted that while the product did contain sugar that it had been served in the advertising as part of a balanced diet, with fruit or brown bread or porridge.
They also noted that the legal super in relation to “Snacking on sugary foods and drinks can damage teeth” had been included thus clearly indicating the presence of sugar and that the label on the jar, featured at the end of the advertisement, clearly indicated that the product contained cocoa. In the circumstances the Committee did not consider that the advertising was misleading or otherwise in breach of the Code.
No further action was required in this case.