Nestle has been forced to remove its slogan "a great start to the day" on its Nesquik range after regulators ruled it gave the impression the hot chocolate drink was a healthy breakfast. The food company ran adverts which featured a Nesquik bunny stirring a cup of hot chocolate, alongside the slogan: "For a great start to the day! ... Nutri-Start Vit D Zinc Iron complementing milk."
The Children's Food Campaign complained to regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) saying the slogan promoted poor nutritional habits in children.
Executives at Nestle denied the accusation and said the advert in fact promoted a healthy lifestyle because the Nesquik bunny "had been carefully designed to convey a physically active, energetic character". The food company also said the slogan "great start to the day" wasn't referring to any health benefits but to the "general enjoyment associated with consuming the product".
Nestle acknowledged, however, its drink contained just over 20g of sugar for every 200ml drink, giving it a "high" ranking in the nutrition traffic light system printed on the front of food and drink packaging.
The ASA ruled that because the advert referenced health benefits alongside the slogan – such as vitamin D, zinc and iron – it gave the impression drinking Nesquik was a nutritional start to the morning, despite its high sugar content. This was not, the ASA concluded, accompanied by a specific authorised health claim and so breached the code.
The ASA said: "Because the product was high in added sugar, we considered that the suggestion that Nesquik was a suitable regular breakfast option for children encouraged poor nutritional habits in children and that the ad therefore should not have appeared at all."
Nestle said it was "disappointed" with ASA's ruling. A spokesman for the company said: "We are committed to advertising responsibly. The advert for shown on the label of a family-sized bottle of milk was undoubtedly targeted at adults who were shopping for their family, making it clear that the product should be consumed over a number of days, rather than in excess.
"We therefore do not believe the advert encouraged poor nutritional habits in children. We wholeheartedly believe that 'For a great start to the day!' is an appropriate statement. However, we always listen to concerns when they are raised. Therefore, as a responsible manufacturer and to remove any ambiguity in future, we will no longer use the statement: 'For a great start to the day!' in our UK advertisements and are actively looking for solutions to help us reduce sugar."
Malcolm Clark, coordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said following the ruling: "The government should no longer leave marketing rules in the hands of industry and advertisers, but take a stronger lead in its forthcoming obesity strategy and introduce tougher restrictions protecting children.
"Supermarkets also need to step up and take responsibility for the promotions that go on their shelves," Clark said.