A TV ad for Quorn Thai Wondergrains, seen in April 2020, featured a woman walking back to her desk in an office, with a flask of water and a Quorn Thai Wondergrains pot. The voiceover stated, “I care about climate change and I love my food. So new Quorn Thai Wondergrains is a step in the right direction because it helps us reduce our carbon footprint and that’s got to be good.” The ad then showed a number of other employees in the office eating the product. A further voiceover stated, “If you care about climate change, take a step in the right direction with new Quorn Wondergrains. Find us in the lunch pots aisle.” On-screen text stated, “Quorn Wonder Grains. Awarded Carbon Reduction Footprint certification by the Carbon Trust for the full life cycle of the product. See Quorn.co.uk/TV for details.”
32 complainants challenged whether the claims that the product could help reduce their carbon footprint and had a beneficial effect on climate change were misleading and could be substantiated.
Marlow Foods Ltd (t/a Quorn) said the Thai Wondergrains product was certified by the Carbon Trust as “Cradle to Grave” for its full lifecycle. They said the footprint protocol not only certified Quorn product results, but also their continued commitment to reduce the product’s carbon emissions. They pointed to the on-screen text, which stated that the product had been awarded the Carbon Reduction Footprint certification, with a reference to a page on their website where viewers could go for further information. They said that, because Quorn Thai Wonder Grains was a new product, they did not have a recertification figure for it yet, but by signing up to the carbon footprint protocol they had a continued commitment to reduce the carbon emission on the product. Therefore, they would, over time, be helping viewers reduce their carbon footprint. They said it was worth noting that Quorn Pieces, a key ingredient of Quorn Thai Wonder Grains, had a carbon footprint ‘at factory gate’ which was lower than chicken.
Clearcast said that, prior to approving the ad, they were provided with information from the Carbon Trust which confirmed that the product’s carbon footprint results had been certified “Cradle to Grave” for the full lifecycle of the product. Based on that information, they considered that the claims in the ad were justified.
The BCAP Code stated that the basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omitted significant information. Comparative claims could be justified if the basis of the comparison was clear.
The ASA considered that viewers would understand from the ad that purchasing a Thai Wondergrains pot would contribute to reducing their carbon footprint and therefore have a positive impact on climate change. The ad did not clarify the claim “helps us reduce our carbon footprint”, and we considered that the basis of the reduction was likely to be material information which consumers would need in order to make an informed decision.
We noted that the ad included on-screen text, which stated that Wonder Grains had been awarded the Carbon Reduction Footprint certification, and that it related to the full life cycle of the product. However, it did not clarify what the claimed reduction of the carbon footprint was being measured against, and viewers would therefore not know what the basis of the reduction was.
We understood that the certification related to the fact that Quorn had measured the carbon footprint of the product and committed to continue to reduce its footprint, meaning that over time, if individuals continued to consume the product, and all other things remained equal, they would reduce their footprint. However, we considered that was not clear from the ad, and viewers would interpret the claim as a comparison against one or more other, similar, products, such that by choosing to buy a Quorn Thai Wondergrains pot over a different product, consumers could reduce their carbon footprint immediately.
In addition, we noted that, because the Thai Wondergrains pot was a new product, it was not possible to demonstrate a reduction in its footprint, and the certification for that product related only to Quorn’s commitment to reduce the footprint over time. We did not consider that was clear from the ad.
We understood that the award of the certificate, and the reduction of the product’s own carbon footprint over time, was also the basis for the climate change claims, and we considered that was also not clear.
Because the ad did not make clear the basis of the claims, i.e. that Quorn had committed to reducing the footprint of their products over time, we concluded that it was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), and 9.2 9.2 The basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information. and 9.4 9.4 Absolute claims must be supported by a high level of substantiation. Comparative claims such as "greener" or "friendlier" can be justified, for example, if the advertised product or service provides a total environmental benefit over that of the advertiser's previous product or service or competitor products or services and the basis of the comparison is clear. (Environmental claims).
We told Marlow Foods Ltd t/a Quorn to ensure that the basis of any environmental claims was made clear, and did not mislead by omitting material information from their ads.