The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form and urged Kellogg to improve compliance to comparative nutrition claims in the future.
The Special K TV advert claimed its oat, barley and rye blended porridge was ‘at least 30% lower than the average fat content of most porridges as calculated April 2013’. Kellogg was rebuked for basing its claim on a dry product instead of one with milk and over its choice of cereal comparisons.
PepsiCo was among the 15 complainants who challenged whether the claim complied with the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP code) – a challenge the ASA upheld.
Dry format comparison a concern
Kellogg based its comparative nutrition claim on 100 g of dry product – a factor the ASA ruled was misleading for consumers as instructions suggested the porridge should be consumed with milk, and without milk the product was not ‘porridge’.
“While we understood that porridge was generally consumed at breakfast time, and for many consumers was an alternative for cereal, we understood that although dry oats, barley and rye could be consumed as sold, they could not be consumed as “porridge” without the addition of a liquid.
“We also noted Kellogg’s comment that sachet and traditional porridges were designed to be made and eaten with milk, and that the ad clearly showed prepared porridge throughout as opposed to dry oats,” the ASA ruled.
It said that while Article 5 of EC Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims enabled comparative nutrition claims between foods of the same category, it required nutrition and health claims to refer to ‘the food ready for consumption in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions’. The UK Department of Health had also issued guidelines to ensure manufacturers complied, the ASA said.
“For those reasons we considered that the nutritional information used as the basis of the claim should have related to the product once it had been prepared with milk,” it detailed.
Comparison model not representative
In addition, the ASA queried Kellogg’s model of comparison.
ASA: “… While we understood that the products selected represented the most popular products in terms of unit sales, we were concerned that we had not seen evidence to show that they were representative of the range of fat content within the food category 'porridge', more generally."
Kellogg used sales information from a database of all breakfast cereals sold in major UK retailer, selecting the top-selling 75% of those products based on unit sales of the previous year. This meant Special K was compared against 36 products from a 307-strong database.
Kellogg argued that by selecting on unit sales, it ensured comparison with products readily available for consumers to purchase and also reflected the products actually eaten by consumers.
But, the ASA said by using this selection model the majority of the 36 comparison products were made by one manufacturer – 12 in total – and included a number of duplicate products of different weights or with varying toppings.
“… While we understood that the products selected represented the most popular products in terms of unit sales, we were concerned that we had not seen evidence to show that they were representative of the range of fat content within the food category “porridge”, more generally.
“In addition, we were concerned that the products selected on the basis of market share could lead to porridges with above average fat contents being over-represented,” the ASA said.