Cereal makers under attack by Parents Jury for “marketing spin”

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 6th April 2009

Australian parents have teamed up with nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton to reveal their list of the worst children’s breakfast ‘Cereal Offenders’ as part of an ongoing campaign to reveal the truth behind the marketing spin on popular children’s food and drink products.

Dr Stanton and online advocacy group The Parents Jury today revealed the outcomes of their first joint ‘Food Detectives’ investigation. The Food Detectives team compared the on-pack claims of 14 children’s cereals, nominated by members of The Parents Jury, with their actual ingredients and key information on the Nutrition Information Panels.

Cereal Aisle

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal was announced as the worst offender, with its reputation as ‘Iron Man Food’ that ‘helps fuel growing boys’ questioned due to “very low fibre content and high levels of sugar and sodium”.

Dr Stanton suggested parents could be misled by the idea that Nutri-Grain is a healthy cereal, especially for growing children.

“Not even the added vitamins and minerals can make up for that fact that this product is almost one-third sugar. An elite iron man may burn off the kilojoules, but no amount of exercise will protect his teeth,” she said.

Despite its recent reformulation, Nestlé Milo cereal was also criticised for its packaging featuring many ticks and statements about its wholegrain and fibre content, as well as the lines ‘nutritious energy cereal’ and ‘now better 4 you’.

Despite having more fibre than its previous formula, Dr Stanton says that with its 30 per cent sugar content Milo cereal cannot claim any “superior moral ground for good nutrition”.

Lowan Cocoa Bombs was also identified as a Cereal Offender for using a lesser-known marketing tactic based on its location in the supermarket. Its gluten free status helps it reach the health food aisle of the supermarket, but Dr Stanton reported that the rice-flour based cereal is very low in fibre and high in sugar.

In contrast, Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids was awarded a ‘Badge of Honour’ by The Parents Jury for meeting its on pack promises.

“Weet-Bix Kids lives up to all of its on-pack claims and proves that it is possible to create a fun and popular healthy children’s cereal,” Dr Stanton commented.

The Parents Jury member and mother of one, Kate Helder, said that parents were increasingly become disillusioned by some of the tactics used to sell children’s cereals.

“Parents are often busy and can be overwhelmed by the volume of choices in the cereal aisle,” she noted. “Food manufacturers take advantage of parents and children by emphasising their cereals’ good elements and neglecting to highlight other significant factors like high levels of sugar or sodium.”

“You don’t see such blatant spin on the packaging of most regular adult cereals, so why should we have to wade through so many potentially misleading claims on kids’ food?”