A poster for Alpro seen on the side of a bus on 18 October 2020, included text on the left-hand side which stated “NEXT STOP. YOUR RECIPE TO A HEALTHIER PLANET!”. On the right-hand side, text stated “GOOD FOR THE PLANET” and “GOOD FOR YOU”. The ad featured the image of three Alpro products. The first was in the shape of a milk carton with text which stated “ALMOND” and “all plant, seriously nutty”. On the second, also in the shape of a milk carton, text stated “OAT”, “NO SUGARS” and “all plant, totally unsweetened”. On the third, text stated “PLAIN”. Alongside the products text stated “DELICIOUSLY PLANT-BASED”.
IssueThe complainant, who believed commercial almond farming caused environmental damage, challenged whether the claim “GOOD FOR THE PLANET” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Alpro (UK) Ltd said that in the overall context of the ad, and in view of wider communications to consumers on the benefits of plant-based eating for the environment in other media, consumers would understand that the claims "recipe for a healthier planet" and "good for the planet" to mean that plant-based products, such as the Alpro products shown in the ad, had a lower environmental impact than alternative dairy-based products. Alpro believed a link was established in the ad between text which stated "DELICIOUSLY PLANT-BASED" foods and the claims "HEALTHIER PLANET" and "GOOD FOR THE PLANET" by expressly referring to the plant-based nature of the Alpro products. Therefore, consuming more plant-based foods in a diet would contribute to a "healthier planet" and was "good for the planet".
Alpro said that how food was grown, sourced and produced, affected the earth, animal life, water, air and therefore the whole climate. They said that shifting towards more plant-based diets was widely recognised as a way to lower the carbon footprint of the agri-food sector. Also, plant-based drinks required substantially less water and land and generated substantially lower CO2 emissions, than cow milk. Alpro referred to several studies which they said showed that soy drink, almond drink, oat drink and rice drink had a lower environmental impact than cow milk. They also provided lifecycle analysis for the soy drink, almond drink and soy alternative to yogurt which were featured in the ad.
Alpro said that the almonds they used in their almond drink were cultivated in a sustainable way which minimised water use and protected biodiversity and pollinating insects. They clarified that the almonds they used came exclusively from small farms around the Mediterranean and that they were mostly watered by rain. Alpro said that although almonds needed more water than soy or oat, the impact on land use and greenhouse gas emissions remained very small, and the environmental impact of almond drink was significantly lower than that of cow milk. Alpro said that the more small-scale, traditional cultivation of almonds in the Mediterranean region depended on pollination by wild pollinators (wild bees and other flying insects), which were considered an important and valuable resource for the almond crop. They said that, on occasion, commercial bees were used as an addition to the natural pollination, but wild pollinators were often considered a lot more effective. Alpro added that their almonds were grown in full accordance with the EU policy to protect bees and pollinators, which was one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world concerning the approval of pesticides. All pesticides on the market had been subjected to a thorough assessment to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment.
The ASA considered there was little context provided in the ad with which to interpret the claim “GOOD FOR THE PLANET”. There was no qualification to the claim and although we acknowledged that the ad also stated “YOUR RECIPE TO A HEALTHIER PLANET” and “DELICIOUSLY PLANT BASED”, we considered it was not clear whether those were intended to clarify the claim “GOOD FOR THE PLANET”, or to be read as separate claims. We therefore considered the claim “GOOD FOR THE PLANET” could be interpreted in more than one way. For example, that there would be net positive environmental benefit from producing the three products featured in the ad (soy drink, almond drink and soy alternative to yogurt). Alternatively, that the three products were less detrimental to the environment compared to dairy equivalents across their lifecycles. We considered the ad was ambiguous between those interpretations.
The complainant raised concern because they understood that almond production in certain areas of the world could have a negative environmental impact. We understood that the almonds that were used in the production of Alpro’s almond drink were not sourced from those regions.
However, the CAP Code required that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and that unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information.
We acknowledged that Alpro had provided analysis in order to demonstrate the environmental impact of two of the three featured products across their lifecycle. We noted that the analysis provided in relation to Alpro’s oat drink did not assess the environmental impact of that product’s entire lifecycle, including, for example transport, packaging and retail. However, because we considered it was not clear what the basis of the claim “GOOD FOR THE PLANET” was, we concluded the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification) and 11.1 (Environmental claims).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Alpro (UK) Ltd to ensure that the basis of environmental claims was clear.