ASA Adjudication on Unilever UK Ltd
Unilever UK Ltd
15 August 2012
Internet (on own site), Television
Food and drink
Number of complaints:
DDB London Ltd
Ads, which featured Vernon Kay and his mother, Gladys, promoted Flora Cuisine.
a. A TV ad showed Gladys pouring Flora Cuisine into a frying pan. Vernon said "What's that?" and his mother replied, "Flora cuisine, 45% less saturated fat than olive oil." A pack shot showed text on the bottle which stated "Flora Cuisine for Heart Healthy frying roasting baking". On-screen text stated "45% less saturated fat than olive oil".
b. Claims on www.floracuisine.co.uk, a website which promoted Flora Cuisine and offered recipes, featured a pack shot and stated "45% less saturated fat than olive oil".
One viewer challenged whether the claim "45% less saturated fat than olive oil" was misleading and the comparison was flawed, because he understood that the percentage difference would change after the product had been heated, as the water evaporated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Unilever UK Ltd (Unilever) said the product was designed to be a reduced saturated fat alternative to olive oil, and when developing it, they had carried out testing to check that consumers could use it in the same way as olive oil and in the same amount. Consumers were advised to use the same quantity of Flora Cuisine in place of olive oil and therefore consumers could follow their usual favourite recipes, while ensuring that they reduced their saturated fat intake by 45%. They said the packaging advised consumers to replace 100 ml of olive oil with 100 ml of Flora Cuisine.
They said the product did contain water, which was added for several important reasons: to dissolve the water soluble components like salt (for anti-splattering) and potassium sorbate (which was anti-microbial), and thickeners (for stability and viscosity) as well as to create an emulsion with oil. They said it was correct that if Flora Cuisine was used for frying, some of the water in the product could evaporate in the process. However, consumers did not need to add more Flora Cuisine to the food just because some of the water in the product might evaporate, and therefore, even if some evaporation occurred, that process would not change the way Flora Cuisine should be used, and consequently would not change the amount of saturated fat coming from the oil in the cooked food. Olive oil and Flora Cuisine were intended for the same purpose and they had taken care to direct consumers to use them in the same amounts.
They said that they had carried out in-house testing on the recipes shown on their website to ensure that consumers could use the same amount of each cooking oil product to cook their dishes. They added that Flora Cuisine had a number of different cooking uses. It could be used for frying, roasting or baking, and in each of those processes the product would work slightly differently and varying amounts of water could evaporate. They said that did not change the fact that if a consumer was to make a vegetable stir-fry or muffins with Flora Cuisine instead of olive oil, each portion of the stir fry or the muffin would contain 45% less saturated fat (coming from the oil), than when made with olive oil. On that basis, they did not feel that the comparison was flawed or misleading.
Clearcast said their consultant had considered the documentation provided by Unilever and considered that it showed Flora Cuisine had health benefits over olive oil. They said the ad's basic message was that Flora Cuisine contained less saturated fat than olive oil and was therefore better for heart health. They felt that the ad expressed the proven benefits of the product and were happy to approve the ad on that basis.
The ASA considered that consumers would infer from the ad that switching to Flora Cuisine from olive oil would reduce their saturated fat intake and had seen documentation supporting the general claim that Flora Cuisine contained "45% less saturated fat than olive oil".
We considered that consumers would understand that the ad was making a direct comparison between the saturated fat content of Flora Cuisine compared to olive oil, and that the comparison was based on using the same amount of each product. We therefore considered that consumers would expect to replace the amount of olive oil they would ordinarily use whilst cooking with the same amount of Flora Cuisine. We also noted that ad (b) set out a "Conversion guidance" table showing that "For 100ml oil" consumers should use "Equivalent Flora Cuisine 100ml".
We understood that some of the water in Flora Cuisine could evaporate in the process of cooking, and that the remaining substance in the pan might have a slightly different make-up, compared to the original make-up of Flora Cuisine before use, and that the percentage difference of the ingredients of Flora Cuisine might change during the course of cooking. We noted, however, that the overall saturated fat content of 100 ml of Flora Cuisine, compared to 100 ml of olive oil, was still reduced.
Therefore, because we considered that consumers would replace the amount of olive oil they ordinarily used with the same amount of Flora Cuisine and because the end result would be that switching from olive oil to Flora cuisine would still reduce the saturated fat content by 45% overall, we concluded that the claim was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.12 (Exaggeration) and 13.5.3 (Food, Food Supplements and Associated Health or Nutrition Claims), but did not find it in breach.
We investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 15.17 (Food Supplements and other Vitamins and Minerals), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.