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Nesquik ad banned over ‘great start to the day’ claim

Nestle Nesquik cereal in a store shelf.
Roberto Machado Noa | LightRocket | Getty Images
Nestle Nesquik cereal in a store shelf.

A cartoon bunny advertising Nesquik hot chocolate had the spring taken out of its step on Wednesday when Nestlé, the owner, was forced to remove its claim that the drink was a "great start to the day".

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint from the Children's Food Campaign, a lobby group, which argued the tag-line encouraged poor nutritional habits in children.

A 200ml drink made with three teaspoons of Nesquik contains 20.2g of sugars, which is above the government's definition of "high" sugar content, for drinks of 13.5g of sugar per portion.

"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," said the advertising watchdog.

The ruling comes ahead of the government's long-awaited measures to tackle growing rates of childhood obesity, which are due to be presented next month.

Defending the advertisement, the Swiss food group said the smiling bunny stirring a large cup of Nesquik "had been carefully designed to convey a physically active, energetic character who could promote a healthy lifestyle".

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While it was "disappointed" with the ruling, Nestlé agreed to remove the claim from the advertisements, which appeared on own-label milk at the supermarket group Asda.

"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," the company.

Food and drinks companies are anxious to avoid the government clamping down on sugary products with mandatory measures, such as advertising restrictions or a tax on sweetened fizzy drinks, preferring voluntary initiatives instead.

However, Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children's Food Campaign, said the industry could not be trusted to regulate itself. "Without stronger rules, more quickly enforced and with higher penalties for repeat offenders, there is little incentive for companies to improve their marketing practices," he said, welcoming the ASA's 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."

Nestlé said the Nesquik advertisement was in any case aimed at adults and its appearance on family-sized bottles of milk "made it clear that the product should be consumed over a number of days, rather than in excess".

The World Health Organisation recommended this year that sugar added to food and drinks should not make up more than 5 per cent of a person's average energy intake. In the UK, teenagers consume three times that amount on average.

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