Weetabix has been ordered to amend its key “slow release energy” claim after it was ruled misleading by the advertising watchdog.
A TV ad, broadcast in July last year, showed a family sitting down to breakfast and comparing their busy days ahead, with a final shot showing a large milk container and a bowl of the cereal with milk before a voice-over said: "Packed with slow release energy to keep you going. Weetabix. Fuel for big days."
Four viewers complained that the claim "slow release energy" was misleading because they understood that Weetabix had a high glycaemic index (GI) rating, meaning it releases energy and raises blood sugar quickly.
Defending the ad, Weetabix said the GI claim was based on the cereal when eaten with milk, as this was the way the "vast majority" of consumers ate the product.
The company said Weetabix's GI, when eaten with semi-skimmed milk, was tested independently in 2005 using the standard international protocol with a result of 47, noting that the British Nutrition Foundation regarded a GI level below 55 as low.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) accepted that Weetabix was a low GI food when eaten with milk but it also accepted that Weetabix had a "mid-range" GI when eaten on its own.
The ASA said Department of Health (DH) guidance stated that such claims should only relate to foods that could not or should not be eaten in any other way, meaning that the Weetabix claim should apply to it as sold and not be reliant on milk being added.
The ASA said: "In light of the DH's guidance and, in the absence of additional qualifying information in the ad, we considered that some viewers might infer that the claim 'Packed with slow release energy to keep you going' related to the Weetabix biscuit itself, rather than the combination of Weetabix and milk.
"We also noted that the Weetabix packet, which was clearly featured in the final shot, stated 'Weetabix Slow Release Energy' and considered that the presentation of the claim on the packet further suggested that the claim referred to the cereal itself, regardless of how it might be consumed.
"On that basis ... we considered that the presentation of the claim was ambiguous, and, in the absence of qualifying information specifying the basis of the claim, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."
It ruled that the claim must not be broadcast again in its current form.