Monday, March 10, 2008

Nutella Goes Too Far

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority recently upheld 53 complaints about a Nutella commercial that tried to spin Nutella as healthy and good for children.

Nutella, with 2.5 teaspoons of sugar per tablespoon of spread, was promoted in the commercial to parents with a voiceover that extolled,

"Surprisingly, each jar contains 52 hazelnuts, the equivalent of a glass of skimmed milk and some cocoa"
with the next voiceover stating,
"Nutella releases energy slowly, so it can be part of a balanced breakfast"
Wow, do the math and you'll find that along with the 52 hazelnuts, each 400g jar of Nutella contains 60 teaspoons of sugar (that's roughly 1.5 cups of sugar - the same amount you'd find in 2 litres of Coca Cola (for the Americans, that's half a gallon)).

Nutella's defense?

According to their press release,
"We took the advice of independent expert nutritionists who; based on the Food Standards Agency "Eat Well plate" nutritional guidelines determined that Nutella Hazelnut Spread could form part of a balanced breakfast"
Made for Canada translation? The Food Guide made us do it.

What does Nutella Canada have to say?
"Mom's across Canada choose Nutella as part of a nutritious and delicious breakfast to give their kids a great start to their day!

Nutella combines the magic of these ingredients into a unique and yummy recipe that kids love. And with no artificial colours and no preservatives, it's easy to feel good about serving Nutella to your kids and helping them spread some energy
I guess "energy" is Big Food speak for "sugar".

[Hat tip to Cathy in Edmonton for pointing me to the story]

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  1. I just discovered your blog today, and trust me, I will be a regular reader.

    Nutella huh? My kids LOVE this stuff, now I know why.....

    Thanks for giving us the honest truth about things we've become so blind too.

  2. This is very interesting, I too will become a regular reader.

    I feel that, in the consumer society we live in, many lies are said regarding the food we eat.

    Thank you for taking on the task to expose them.

  3. Nutella just might be one company, but there are others that are similar in product composition as well as marketing methods to younger audience. And now with more research being released that sweeteners are even worse then natural sugars I bet you will see allot of complaints and product redesigns.

  4. I think I always knew Nutella was not healthy, but it tastes really good. And... sometimes you just need a teaspoon of it to get through the day.

    Or maybe that's just me.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Edward - I am confused by what you mean when you say that sweetners are "worse" than natural sugars? Sweeteners are sweeteners. Brown sugar, white sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, cane juice, fruit sugar - they are all the same in terms of how they are handled by your body. On a chemical level, they are all carbohydrate, and your body cannot tell the difference between them since they are all broken down into a simple sugar called glucose and either used for energy or stored for later use as glycogen and then fat. The source is irelevant - sugar is sugar.

    Dr. Freedhoff - looks like along with the increased blog traffic comes an increased need for education. Especially around the topic of sweeteners. Or maybe these folks just need to head to your archives and read past posts.

  7. Yeah, but it's NUTELLA.

    Really, who could possibly begin to image it is healthy? Or even not dangerous? Just take a whiff! Mmmm... doesn't smell like carrots to me.

  8. Anonymous12:30 pm

    I'm glad someone finally came forward about that ad. The Canadian/US equivalant has driven me nuts for ages, ESPECIALLY when the person they have extolling the vitues of it here is a "teacher". (She states in the ad, "As a teacher," and goes on about breakfast.) The reason Nutella is so good is that it is basically chocolate icing with hazelnuts mushed in - not healthy at all (but terribly, terribly delicious, I'm afraid!)

  9. Nutella! I would never dream of feeding this to my children...a chocolate nutspread never struck me as healthy even without reading the label.

  10. Oh I feed it to myself....sometimes I have a spoonful to curb a chocolate craving. It helps prevent chocolate disasters.

    I know it is not healthy thoughand I do not have kids to feed, but I do not let my cat have any....except on special occasions!

  11. i, too, eat a teaspoon of nutella if im fighting the chocolate monster... 1 TEAspoon, not tablespoon of nutella is a lot better than stuff i can think of if i didnt nip the craving in the bud...

    BUT no way would i feed it to my DD...

  12. Thank you! That Nutella ad makes me want to bang my head against a wall until I'm unconscious.

    A family member always gives her kids toast with Nutella as a bedtime snack, because "it's healthy". I don't think she'd ever read the nutrition list.

    I'm all for things in moderation, and Nutella is definitely something that needs to be moderated. The wording from the company clearly indicates a CYA position "...part of a healthy breakfast..."

    KH - I think Edward was talking about artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda and Aspartame, being compared to natural sugars.

  13. it's amazing how media can brainwash people to believing something obviously untrue. keep up the good work. love the truth!

  14. I believe that Nutella is basically the filling of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Since I would not feed my daughter a box of chocolates for breakfast, why would I let her eat the innards of a bonbon on bread? We buy one small jar a year, as a special treat, which is about as often as we buy (or are given) a box of Ferrero Rocher. While they are damn tasty, I would not serve them for "the most important meal of the day". I am not against goodies now and then, but to tout this as a nutritious breakfast spread is unconscionable. Undoubtably, it is intended to be liberally spread on white bread by a good and loving mother. :P Thanks for pointing out one more of many misleading marketing campaigns!

  15. I love Nutella. But as an occasional treat. To advertise it as part of a nutritional breakfast is definitely a false statement.
    Thanks for calling this to our attention.

  16. Anonymous8:25 pm

    And to think I had some for breakfast this mornin...

  17. Very interesting weblog you have. Very eye opening! Come visit me if you wish at It might be interesting for you in other ways and yes, I am Iranian but not a terrorist! They do exist, you know! :)

  18. OMG, I used to love it during my school-boarding years! lucky enough when I step into university where money become a big matter, I've made a change on my dietary meals. no more Nutella in the morning. In my country Nutella for me is one of the no-so-cheap bread spreads. so there's no place in me for it right now :)

  19. Well, I remember Mars Bar ads featuring Donovan Bailey, where essentially they were marketing the milk chocolate/caramel goo/fluffy candy stuff as "power bars."

    "Before I run a race, I give my body the energy it needs to perform" (or some such).

    Simple sugar calories = energy I suppose. I guess they weren't lying exactly...

  20. Contrary to some beliefs, sweeteners are not sweeteners. The glycemic index determines how quickly carbs are turned into glucose. All sweeteners have calories, so a free-for-all isn't in order no matter which you choose. Some are worse for you such as refined sugar as it also robs your body of nutrients.

    By the way, on the site, Nutella is listed with a glycemic index of 33, a fairly low number. However, the refined sugar isn't great.

    I looove Nutella, but don't buy it because I could eat the whole jar at once.

  21. Haha yes, we get that ad in australia. We get many MANY ads such as this in Australia and hey, with half our population being either overweight or obese I guess something is getting through, right?

  22. Anonymous3:44 pm

    Fun/funny thing about the good ol' USA: Coke is one of the few products that you actually can buy in liters, besides wine.

    I do not know why.

  23. Wow.. that kinda sucks :) Honestly tho I think anyone with common sense could look at a jar of nutella and conclude there is NOTHING healthy about it.. about the same as a candy bar with nuts in it.. :p or maybe even a hamburger.. after all it does have salad on it ;) lol

    fyi.. in America (yeah we are pretty screwed up I know!) we measure our soda in liters

  24. science nerd11:32 am

    Your Chef - table sugar, brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup are chemically similar (made up a various proportions of glucose and fructose) and have about the same glycemic indexes (approx 50-60). Your notion that "refined sugar" (I will assume you mean table sugar even though all sugars are refined and purified in order to make them fit for human consumption) is just ridiculous. Table sugar is pure sucrose - a disaccharide, a carbohydrate. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no scientific basis for your statement that it "robs" nutrients from the body. You may wish to stop obtaining your information from non-credible websites. Newsflash - not everything your read on the internet its true! Gasp! And lastly, the reason that the GI of nutella is so low is because it contains a heck of a lot of fat. Fat, as I am sure you are aware, slows down the digestion of carbohydrate and reduces blood sugar response. Adding fat to any carbohydrate will reduce its GI. That is why GI is not the gold standard of healthy eating.

  25. Anonymous12:51 am

    Nutella tastes great - but it's the PLASTIC container it's in which makes it so un-nutritious. The plastic jar contains bisphenol-A, look at the bottom of the jar and see the Recycling triangle with 1 - the number one - in it), similar to most, if not all, water bottles. This bisphenol-A (and other chemicals in the plastics) leach into the food, making it a danger to consume!

  26. Anonymous4:32 pm


    I believe when Edward mentioned sweeteners, he was talking about the sugar substitute kind. Aspartame based ect...

  27. Anonymous5:16 pm

    seriously....who is going to eat a jar of nutella? One or two tablespoon as a treat doesn't hurt and the low GI value of it doesn't hurt as a little sweet treat once in a while for kids. I would let them have maybe a half of a tablespoon once in a while.