Two TV ads for Quorn, a meat-free protein alternative, seen in January 2019:
a. The first TV ad showed a man taking a packet of Quorn Mince out of the freezer and preparing a dish of spaghetti Bolognese. A voice-over stated, “Question. How does Mike make up for working late with a full-on tasty meal in 15 minutes? Answer. With deliciously healthy Quorn mince straight from the freezer for Lisa’s favourite spag bol and turns it into a big night in. Quorn. Healthy protein. Healthy planet.” On-screen text stated “Quorn mince is a source of protein. Protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. ‘Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet.’ Is the Quorn mission statement”.
At the end of the ad the Quorn logo was shown on screen. Underneath, bold text stated “Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet”.
b. The second TV ad showed a teenage boy taking a packet of Quorn pieces out of the freezer and preparing a Thai green curry. A voice-over stated, “Question. How did Steve impress his mates in Veganuary? Answer. He added a squeeze of lime and fresh coriander to deliciously healthy vegan Quorn pieces and made them a Thai green-with-envy curry. Quorn. Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet.” On-screen text stated “Quorn vegan pieces are a source of protein. Protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. ‘Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet.’ Is the Quorn mission statement”.
At the end of the ad the Quorn logo was shown on-screen. Underneath, bold text stated “Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet”.
The complainants challenged whether the claim “Healthy Planet” was misleading, because they believed it did not take into account the entire lifecycle of the product.
Marlow Foods Ltd t/a as Quorn Foods said the ad stated “Healthy Planet”, rather than “Healthier Planet”, and was not intended to be understood as a comparative claim. They explained that their products (including the Quorn Mince and Quorn Vegan Pieces featured in the ads) were made from mycoprotein, which was produced from a fungus through fermentation at their UK production sites. They emphasised that their advertising did not state that their factories were ecological, but they had a highly efficient production process which meant their products were less resource-intensive than other protein products and could therefore help to address the planet’s need for sustainable protein sources.
Quorn Foods said their products were third-party accredited by the Carbon Trust Certification Ltd (the Carbon Trust). The Carbon Trust had certified the product carbon footprint of a number of their products which together made up over 50% of the volume of Quorn branded products sold in the UK, including the two products featured in the ads. The certification related to the full ‘cradle-to-grave’ lifecycle of the products, including accounting for waste at each stage of the production process from the ingredients used to the consumer’s disposal of the product packaging, and considering water and land usage. The certification confirmed that Quorn Foods had reduced the carbon footprint of a number of their products since 2012. Quorn Foods said they were committed to continuing to reduce their carbon emissions going forward.
Quorn Foods said they were always working on innovative ways to reduce waste. They were unique in that they eliminated waste at the start of their production process. Because Quorn ferment, mycoprotein, was the main protein source, their method of production actually increased the overall protein yield, thus reducing food waste straight away. They also said that all the consumer facing packaging on Quorn Mince and Quorn Vegan pieces was recyclable. All cardboard used in packaging was from approved, managed and sustainable sources and all their outer cases used recycled cardboard. They had joined The Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) Courtauld 2025 initiative, committing to reduce waste and emissions by one fifth, and they also worked with Fairshare to reduce their food waste.
Notwithstanding that, they considered the ads would not be interpreted by consumers to be a comparison between the environmental impact of Quorn products and meat products, Quorn Foods said there was a well-established evidence base that highlighted the need for less resource-intensive diets, specifically involving a shift away from animal products towards a more plant-based diet. They referred to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations and an article in Nature. Quorn Foods said that Quorn products could be seen as solutions to the recommendations made by the IPCC to the UN in 2018.
They provided a 2018 report from the Carbon Trust which compared the carbon footprint and land and water usage of key Quorn products versus their most relevant source of traditional protein, on a cradle-to-gate basis (i.e. not including, for example, final product packaging). They explained that the analysis did not relate to the full lifecycles of the products because the Carbon Trust could not gain access to the necessary information from the animal protein industry to produce a robust full lifecycle analysis. Quorn Foods highlighted that the report showed that compared to an equivalent amount of beef mince, the production of 1kg of Quorn Mince used less than one-eighth of the land and one-tenth of the green water, and produced one-tenth of the carbon. The environmental impact of Quorn Pieces was also less than that of chicken. Quorn Foods highlighted that although the report did not include Quorn Vegan Pieces in its comparison, their separate 2017 Carbon Footprint Certification showed that the cradle-to-gate carbon footprint of that product was similar to that of Quorn Pieces.
Clearcast endorsed Quorn Foods’ comments. They said the claim “Healthy protein. Healthy planet”, along with the accompanying text, made clear that it was a mission statement which communicated that Quorn was a more healthy protein that would contribute to a more healthy planet. They said it suggested that eating Quorn instead of other proteins would help the environment; and Quorn Foods had shown that their products did have significantly less environmental impact than eating many other proteins. Clearcast did not think the claim would be understood by viewers as an absolute claim that needed to be substantiated by information relating to the full lifecycle of the product, but that the evidence provided by Quorn Foods nonetheless was sufficient to support such a claim.
Ads (a) and (b) described people using Quorn mince or pieces to make meals which would in the UK often feature meat as their source of protein. Ad (b), which related to a vegan version of Quorn pieces, also referred to Veganuary, a movement designed to encourage people to adopt a vegan diet for the month of January. While the claim “Healthy Planet” was broad and nonspecific, and the ads did not directly compare Quorn with meat or refer to swapping from meat to Quorn, the ASA considered that in the overall context of the ads, viewers would understand the claim as having an objective meaning that Quorn products in general had a lower environmental impact than alternative meat-based sources of protein.
We considered the evidence relating to the environmental impact of animal products compared to plant products. We understood that it was generally accepted amongst the scientific community that diets which included meat, and particularly red meat, had a greater environmental impact than plant-based diets, and that switching to a more plant-based diet was a way in which individuals could reduce their overall environmental impact.
We further noted the evidence Marlow Foods had provided specifically in relation to the cradle-to-gate carbon footprint and land and water usage of key Quorn products compared to meat products; all the Quorn products had a smaller environmental impact than the meat products. While the comparison carried out by the Carbon Trust did not relate to the full lifecycles of the products or to all Quorn products, from the information provided in the Carbon Trust Footprint certification we understood it was highly likely that the cradle-to-grave carbon emissions of Quorn Mince, Quorn Pieces and Quorn Vegan Pieces were lower than the cradle-to-gate carbon emissions of beef and chicken. We considered the evidence therefore demonstrated that Quorn products in general had a much lower environmental impact than animal sources of protein. We also considered that the Carbon Trust Footprint certification demonstrated that Marlow Foods were committed to monitoring and reducing the full lifecycle carbon footprint of all their products. We therefore concluded that the claim “Healthy Planet” was not misleading.
We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 9.2 and 9.5 (Environmental claims), but did not find them in breach.
No further action required.