A poster encouraging children to eat Kellogg’s Coco Pops as an after-school snack did not break advertising rules, a watchdog said today.
The advert, featuring cartoon character Coco the monkey dressed in school uniform, and reading: ‘Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?’ drew 21 complaints that it was irresponsible for encouraging children to eat a high-sugar snack.
Some complainants, including Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, said it encouraged children to eat two bowls of breakfast cereal a day.
Defending the advert, Kellogg’s said there was no UK or EU definition of ‘high’ sugar content, but added that Coco Pops contained less sugar than other snacks such as bananas, fruit yoghurt and toast and jam.
The company argued that because Coco Pops were a source of iron, B vitamins and calcium when eaten with milk, the cereal had fewer calories and greater nutritional benefit than the snacks it sought to replace.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected the complaints, but noted that Coco Pops were classed as high in sugar according to Food Standards Agency because they contained 34g of sugar per 100g, meaning it was advisable to eat them in moderation.
However, it said Coco Pops were usually eaten in a 30g serving and there were no recognised guidelines as to what could be classed as ‘high’ in sugar in smaller quantities.
The ASA accepted Kellogg’s argument that Coco Pops would replace rather than accompany another after-school snack or replace a main meal and therefore could be part of a healthy balanced diet when served with milk.
It said: ‘We therefore concluded that it was not irresponsible to suggest Coco Pops might be eaten as an after-school snack.’
It was unlikely that readers would infer from the advert that it was appropriate to eat two bowls of Coco Pops a day, the ASA added.
The Children’s Food Campaign said it was ‘disappointed’ with the ruling, saying many ‘outraged’ parents posted their concerns about the ad on the Netmums website and Twitter.
Campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schneider said: ‘It’s amazing that the ASA doesn’t consider the headline “Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?” an invitation to children to eat another bowl of the high sugar cereal.’
Kellogg’s said: ‘We are pleased the ASA has decided to look beyond the hype and concentrate on the facts. Coco Pops is nutritious – it’s low fat, packed full of vitamins and has no more sugar than a fruit yoghurt.
‘And, that’s why mums should continue to give their children a bowl after school, guilt-free.’