Ferrero UK has been told to remove its recent TV advertisement for Nutella, after a British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) verdict that it contains misleading information about nutritional content.
"We considered that the ad misleadingly implied the spread made a more significant nutritional contribution to a balanced breakfast than was the case," said ASA in its adjudication.
As such, the ad was found to have breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules on misleading advertising and accuracy in food advertising. ASA concluded that "the ad should not be repeated in its current form."
A spokesperson at the ASA confirmed that no TV channel will now accept the advertisement unless it is changed and meets certain standards.
The ASA investigation followed complaints from consumer organisation Which? and 52 viewers on the misleading nature of the advertisement for the popular hazelnut spread, which stated that Nutella could be eaten as part of a balanced breakfast.
The consumer group said the ad implied Nutella was more nutritious than it was, because it referred to ingredients such as hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa powder but did not make clear that it was a high sugar and fat product.
Ferrero contended that the ad showed a typically balanced breakfast consisting of a bowl of low, or no-sugar cereal, Nutella spread on a slice of wholegrain toast and a glass of juice.
It added that dietitians had advised the firm that the recommended portion size of 15g was appropriate when part of a balanced breakfast. In addition, it said that the Eat Well Plate model - developed by the UK Food Standards Agency - included small quantities of sugar and fat as part of a balanced diet.
The ASA accepted that the ad referred to Nutella as a product that could be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, but it said the reference to just hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa powder in the context of claims for the nutritional benefits of a balanced breakfast "created the overall impression that Nutella made a significant contribution to a balanced diet".
ASA accepted that small quantities of sugar and fat are recommended as part of a healthy diet but noted "Nutella had a high sugar and fat content."
In response to ASA's decision, Which? said "Food companies must be more responsible with the way they market their products, especially those aimed at children."
Ferrero issued an announcement stating that "at no stage did we set out to mislead consumers as to the nature of Nutella Hazelnut Spread and we have always been very clear about the ingredients and nutritional information in all our communications, on all our packs and on our website."
The company said it is now collaborating with Clearcast and ASA to ensure that the amended Nutella Hazelnut Spread advertising abides by the new ASA ruling.
Ferrero declined to make any further comment.
In its complaint, Which? had also said the Nutella ad misleadingly implied that Nutella was a slow energy release product. The group challenged this because of the high sugar and oil content of the product.
However, ASA did not uphold this complaint, saying there was sufficient scientific evidence to support the company's claims and it was not considered that the ad was sufficiently misleading with regard to this point.
Another complaint related to the claim that Nutella contained only hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa powder. Again, ASA did not uphold the complaint as it deemed this was not misleading to consumers. It noted that Nutella also contained sugar and fat but "concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead viewers into believing Nutella contained only nuts, skimmed milk and cocoa."