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Mondelēz not sweet-talking kids into poor nutrition choices with Barny ad, rules watchdog

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+

13-Mar-2014
Last updated on 13-Mar-2014 at 12:55 GMT

ASA: 'We considered that it was clear that the cake bar was part of a snack, rather than being a snack on its own.'
ASA: 'We considered that it was clear that the cake bar was part of a snack, rather than being a snack on its own.'

The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has dismissed complaints that a TV advert for Mondelēz International's Barny cake bar was an implied health claim and that it encouraged poor nutritional habits.

ASA concluded that the advert was purely descriptive in its portrayal of ingredients and showed reasonable, supervised snacking. 

Introducing Barny

The advert for the Barny sponge bar showed a boy sitting at a kitchen table when an animated bear took his hand and took him running through a landscape of wheat fields, sponge cake hills and chocolate rivers.

The boy then landed back in the kitchen as a voice-over stated: "Introducing Barny, a sponge snack made with ingredients like wheat, chocolate and eggs. Keep the adventure going with Barny."

On the kitchen table was the raw ingredients of the bar including wheat, chocolate, milk and eggs while an on-screen text stated: "No artificial colours. No preservatives." The boy was shown with his mother eating the snack next to a glass of milk and a bowl of fresh fruit.

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What are you implying?

Three complainants asked whether the product’s presentation could be considered as an unauthorized implied general health claim, while two others argued that it condoned or encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle and poor nutritional habits particularly in children.

Mondelēz said there were no references to the product or its ingredients having any health or nutritional benefits. Ad pre-approval service Clearcast said the advert was clearly demonstrating what the Barny product was and what it contained, and did not include any kind of health claims of being ‘natural’ or ‘wholesome’.

ASA said: “We considered that the ad provided information about the content of a Barny sponge snack bar, but did not make a general health claim about the product or its ingredients. We therefore concluded that the ad had not breached the code.”

Snacking habits

Mondelēz said its product and marketing campaign fell within the UK Food Standards Agency guidance on snacking. The company said the cake bars were portion controlled at 30 g and individually packed, which they believed “restricted the likelihood of over consumption”.

It said the ad did not imply that the product was an everyday food nor did it encourage daily consumption. Instead Mondelēz said the snack was shown as part of an active lifestyle and a balanced diet.

Clearcast said since the product was high in fats, salt and sugar, appropriate scheduling restrictions were applied to prevent the advert from being shown between programs made for audiences under 16. They said aside from the product being high in fats, salt and sugar, it was difficult to see how the campaign condoned or encouraged poor nutritional habits.  

ASA backed this conculsion, saying: “We considered that it was clear that the cake bar was part of a snack, rather than being a snack on its own.”   

Barny brand 

Mondelēz International launched the brand in the UK last year, having already done so in France, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic and Russia. 

In the UK, the product was made available in chocolate and milk varieties in multi-packs priced £1.69 ($2.82) per pack. The UK launch was said to be supported by a £4m ($6.6m) marketing campaign, including television advertisement. 

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