ASA Ruling on Weetabix Ltd
30 January 2013
Food and drink
Number of complaints:
101 London Ltd
A TV ad, for Weetos breakfast cereal, showed a young boy eating a bowl of Weetos. As the voice-over stated, "If you happen to have Weetos for breakfast and come across a tough guy's moustache, you can probably just beat it. But if you come across it later in the day, you might not stand a chance. So why don't you top up on Weetos, fortified with vitamin D, to help you stay strong enough to avoid getting your butt kicked by a tough guy's moustache", the boy was shown first fending off the moustache on a driveway and later on the floor and being hit on the head with a book, when he again encountered the moustache in a library. He also ate some Weetos from a jar using his hands while in the library. On-screen text, which was shown with a packet of Weetos at the end of the ad, stated "FOR BREAKFAST AND BEYOND".
Five complainants challenged whether the ad promoted poor nutritional habits and an unhealthy lifestyle in children, because they believed it encouraged excessive consumption.
Weetabix said the ad was light-hearted but did not encourage excessive consumption. They said Weetos were not nutritionally poor, because they were not a high, fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) product as defined by the Food Standards Agency. They said the product could be advertised to children and was high in fibre, low in saturated fat, low in salt, contained wholegrain wheat and was fortified with vitamins and iron. Several health claims had been approved under European Regulation No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods and could therefore legally be made for the product. They said a recommended 30 gram serving provided only a small proportion of guideline daily amounts for five- to ten-year-old children. They provided details of those guideline daily amounts and said, for example, a serving provided only 8.3% of the guideline daily amount of sugar, which would be only 16.6% even if a consumer ate another full portion later. Weetabix said they saw no reason why a child snacking on Weetos would be considered as encouraging poor nutritional habits given that they were not HFSS. They pointed out that increasing the portion size would have no bearing on whether the product was classed as HFSS.
Weetabix said it was necessary to show the boy with a bowl filled to the top to ensure the product was visible, which was the norm for breakfast cereal packaging. However, they were careful to ensure the bowl was not unusually large and the boy was shown taking only one spoonful. They said serving size information was freely available to parents and children on the product packaging but was not legally dictated. Weetabix said they were careful to ensure the child was seen 'topping up' with only a small amount of the cereal in the later scene. That serving was shown in an average size container that could hold only a small amount of cereal to lessen any visual impact. They said cereals could be eaten any time and were better than other alternatives a child might snack on. Their research indicated that Weetos were eaten outside of breakfast time on 29% of occasions and they believed it would be unreasonable to suggest cereal should be eaten only at breakfast time. They considered that to encourage excessive consumption of a product that was not classed as an 'unhealthy' food the ad would need to encourage children to consume highly excessive quantities of the cereal, which, although subjective, would involve significantly more cereal than was shown. However, the boy was shown eating sparingly from a regular sized bowl and later taking a small amount from a comparatively small container. They firmly believed the ad, for a nutritious cereal, could not be said to condone excessive consumption, particularly given the other less nutritious snacks that were readily available.
Clearcast endorsed Weetabix's response. They reiterated that there was nothing wrong in snacking on a non-HFSS product throughout the day and that the cereal was more nutritious than many available alternatives. They said although advertisers could not show a product being consumed excessively, even if it was not HFSS, the pattern of consumption shown in the ad was consistent with good dietary practice.
The ASA noted the bowl the boy was shown eating from was full. We considered viewers would understand that the boy intended to eat the entire bowl of cereal. However, we noted Weetos were not high in fat, salt or sugar and that the container he ate from later was small. We therefore considered the consumption shown was not excessive. We also considered the slogan "FOR BREAKFAST AND BEYOND" was likely to be interpreted as suggesting Weetos could also be eaten as a snack other than at breakfast time, rather than that they should be eaten excessively. We therefore concluded that the ad did not encourage excessive consumption or condone poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 13.2 and 13.3 (Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.