The ASA ruled that the comparisons were in breach of regulations and the standards code, which stipulates foods must only be compared if they fall within the same category and are the same quantity.
Cereal Partners UK – part of the global Nestlé-General Mills joint venture – aired a television advert and published a press ad that compared its Cheerios and Nesquik RTE breakfast cereals with alternative food choices.
The TV ad compared the amount of calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt in Nesquik cereal with the amount in jam on toast. In the press ad headlined ‘how does your breakfast match up?’, it compared the nutritional values of Cheerios with those of a croissant.
The ASA upheld complaints against both adverts and told Cereal Partners UK that the adverts must not appear again in their current form.
It ruled that that both adverts were in breach of regulations because they compared a cereal product to a food from another category and had not given full details of the quantity.
While Cereal Partners UK had provided full quantity details and nutritional information on its website, and directed viewers and readers of the adverts to the additional information, the ASA said comparing jam on toast and croissants with cereal was enough to rule that the company pull both ads.
Purpose was to ‘educate’ and ‘inform’ consumers, says Cereal Partners
The ASA said that both adverts implied that the cereals had a better nutritional value than their food counterparts.
However, Cereal Partners UK said this was not the intention of its ads, or broader campaign.
“The purpose of the Battle of the Breakfasts campaign was to educate and inform consumers, encouraging them to think about their breakfast choices by providing nutrition facts on a range of foods that were typically eaten at breakfast,” it said.
The cereal firm said it formed part of its commitment to the UK Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal.
It added that it had sought advice from a nutrition expert on whether the comparisons made were fair and reasonable.
Cereal Partners said the mock ‘battles’ in the adverts were not intended to imply the cereals were a better nutritional choice. “The campaign was intended to provide relevant, factual information regarding the calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in common breakfast foods.”
Previous 'battle' controversy
This is not the first time Cereal Partners UK has faced trouble with the ASA over its 'battle of the breakfasts' campaign.
In August last year, it ran adverts promoting the whole grain content of its cereals which the consumer group Children’s Food Campaign claimed contravened a previous ASA ruling that said Cereal Partners should not advise consumers to “eat at least three portions of whole grain a day”. Cereal Partners UK defended its adverts at the time.