Print This Post
Product: Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (Infant Formula)
Advertiser: Nutricia Ireland Ltd – Cow & Gate
Medium: Direct Marketing, Email
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 8.30, 8.31, 8.32, 8.33(a), 8.33(b)
A direct email for Cow & Gate Follow-On Formula included information on the various products available in their Stage 2 Follow-On milk range.
Ready for the next stage?
Your little one is growing fast and their nutritional needs are changing too. Soon they’ll be ready to start weaning! It’s an exciting journey for both of you. At the start, your baby can only manage little mouthfuls of food – that’s why their usual milk still plays a very important role in their diet.
Our stage 2 Follow-on Milk from 6 – 12 months is nutritionally tailored to complement a balanced weaning diet, it contains:
Vitamin D and Calcium for normal bone development
Iron to support normal cognitive development.”
An image of the 800g pack was provided with a button underneath “Tell me more”
“Our stage 2 Follow-on milks are available in different formats:
1 litre ready-to-use bottle convenient for those late night feeds.
200ml ready-to-use bottle Pour and go!
4X200ml multi-pack An easy to carry pack”
An image of each product was provided and underneath all was a button titled
“Explore our Stage 2 Follow-on milks”
Underneath was text titled:
“IMPORTANT NOTICE: Breastfeeding is best for your baby. Follow-on milk should only be used as part of a mixed diet and not as a breastmilk substitute before 6 months. Use on the advice of a healthcare professional. Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life. The Department of Health recommend weaning at around 6 months. Please speak with a healthcare professional before introducing solid foods.”
A footnote at the end of the email included the following text:
“Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice about feeding your baby.
The complainant considered that the advertising was in breach of the Code as it had not contained a statement that Follow-on formula should not replace breastfeeding.
The complainant considered that the section titled “Important Notice” was misleading as it had stated that weaning was recommended at around 6 months which was contributing to the belief that breastfeeding was no longer beneficial after 6 months of age.
The advertisers stated that the email discusses both weaning in general and Cow & Gate follow-on milks and was followed by an “important notice” which covered information that was important to convey to consumers on both aspects of infant nutrition.
The advertisers said that the important notice for Follow-on milk was that “Breastfeeding is best for your baby. Follow-on milk should only be used as part of a mixed diet and not as a breastmilk substitute before 6 months. Use on the advice of a healthcare professional.”
The said that the important notice had started with the statement: “Breastfeeding is best for your baby” and that as the term ‘baby’ or ‘infant’ referred to babies up to 12 months, the statement established the superiority of breastmilk during that period.
The advertisers said that the statement they included in all their advertising regarding weaning/weaning foods was to clearly communicate government recommendations on the introduction of solid foods which should take place around 6 months and that before this period, only breastfeeding was recommended unless a healthcare professional recommends otherwise. They said that wording of this statement was “Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life. The Department of Health recommend weaning at around 6 months. Please speak with a healthcare professional before introducing solid foods.”
The advertisers said that they completely agreed with the complainant that breastfeeding was beneficial beyond 6 months and supported this through their statement “Breastfeeding is best for babies”. They said it was not their practice to use the important statements for follow-on milk and weaning directly after one another, but in this particular instance, both notices appear to have been merged rather than separated under their individual food categories. They said that they could understand how the complainant might feel that in this instance the important notice may have caused confusion over the importance of breastfeeding beyond 6 months, however, they said it was unintentional and they had since checked all their emails to ensure that the important statements appeared separately under their relevant food categories.
They also said that they believed that in setting out the superiority of breastmilk for babies at the start of their important notice, and in including information that follow-on milk should not be used before 6 months, their email had adhered to the provisions of the Code. However, they did acknowledge that there was a risk that the important notice regarding weaning may lead to misinterpretation and they thanked the complainant for bringing it to their attention. They said that it was not their practice for these statements to appear together under advertising for follow-on milk and reiterated that it was an error which they had since corrected and would ensure that they are separated in future.
In regard to the advertising itself, the advertisers stated that they did not consider that the overall impact of their email would discourage breastfeeding or its continuance beyond 6 months, particularly as the first paragraph of the advertisement referring to weaning had sated “At the start, your baby can only manage little mouthfuls of food – that’s why their usual milk still plays a very important role in their diet” which they considered had clearly referred to the importance of “baby’s usual milk”, whether that be breastmilk or formula after weaning had started.
They also stated that the email had referred to the superiority of breastfeeding on two different occasions, by stating “Breastfeeding is best for babies” and “Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits”.
Finally, the advertisers stated that despite the unintentional merging of the two important notices, one for their follow-on product and one for weaning, they did not believe that the average consumer would be discouraged from breastfeeding or would cease breastfeeding after 6 months based on the overall impact of the email. They considered that it would be more likely that a consumer would interpret the recommendation in relation to weaning as it was intended, that is, that breastmilk was all a baby needed in the first 6 months and that thereafter, weaning should commence alongside a baby’s usual milk.
Complaint Upheld In Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 Not Upheld:
The Committee noted the Code requirement at 8.33(a) that marketing communications for follow-on formula should be designed to provide the necessary information about the appropriate use of the products so as not to discourage breastfeeding. As the advertisement had included a statement that breastfeeding was best, and that follow-on milk should not be used as a breastmilk substitute before 6 months, the Complaints Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the basis of this complaint issue.
Issue 2 Upheld:
The Committee noted that two separate “Important Notice” statements had been mistakenly merged into one, the result of which could be seen to cause confusion over the recommended duration of breastfeeding. While the Committee accepted that it was a genuine error to merge the two messages, nevertheless, they considered that the merging of the two notices, one regarding follow-on formula and one regarding weaning, had the potential to discourage breastfeeding, and therefore they considered that the advertisement was in breach of Section 8.33(a) of the Code.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form. The Committee acknowledged and welcomed the steps taken by the advertiser in regard to future advertising.