ASA bans Nomad Foods advert for exaggerated portion size

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

'We appreciate that there may have been confusion around the portion sizes shown in the pan and the resulting bowl shots,' said Nomad Foods Europe. © iStock
'We appreciate that there may have been confusion around the portion sizes shown in the pan and the resulting bowl shots,' said Nomad Foods Europe. © iStock

Related tags: Advertising

Frozen food manufacturer Nomad Foods Europe has been forced to withdraw a TV advert for misleading consumers over the portion size of a pasta dish after using more than one packet to "bring life to the ingredients" in the advert.

The product in question was a Birds Eye ‘Stir Your Senses’ frozen ready-made meals and featured two people cooking a single serving mushroom and pasta dish, Tagliatelle con Porcini.

Nomad Foods told the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) they had used “slightly more”​ product for the pan shots than is actually in a pack in order to “bring life to the ingredients”​ and to reflect the two person occasion that was enacted in the advert.

In the advert, broadcast in the UK in January 2016, a man and woman were depicted in a kitchen heating one of the pasta products on the stove, with one pack seen next to the stove. In another scene the woman was seen sitting down to eat the pasta from a bowl.

Nomad Foods Europe told the ASA it had used more than a single serving for the pan shot only while the bowl shots contained one pack. However when the regulator bought and prepared the dish it thought this to be unlikely. 

“We considered that both the pan and bowl shots in the ad appeared to contain more pasta and mushrooms when compared to one real-life serving (one packet) of the product. Because of that, and because viewers were likely to expect the amounts shown in the ad to be equivalent to one packet of the product, but that was not always the case, we concluded that the ad exaggerated the portion size of the product and was therefore misleading.”

“We told Nomad Foods Europe Ltd not to exaggerate the portion sizes of their products in future.”

'There may have been confusion'

A statement made by Nomad Foods Europe to FoodNavigator said although it was disappointed in the ruling, it accepted it and would not show the advert in question again.

“As a leading brand in frozen food, Birds Eye is committed to advertising responsibly and our intention was simply to highlight the single serve portion size for adults that Birds Eye Stir Your Senses can offer.

“The scenes with the man and woman eating accurately represent the contents of one standard portion, however we appreciate that there may have been confusion around the portion sizes shown in the pan and the resulting bowl shots,” ​it said.

The complaint was made by global advertising company Havas London whose customers include baby food manufacturer Ella’s Kitchen and Arla.

The advert’s scenario had been approved by Clearcast -  the body which checks company’s advert pitches against the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising to ensure they are not misleading, harmful or offensive -  on the grounds that Nomad Foods took care to accurately represent the contents of one standard pack, and that the quantity and quality were not exaggerated.

Clearcast viewed the finished advert and approved it, saying they were under the impression the guidance had been followed.

Portion size: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

Smaller portion sizes have been heralded as an effective way to beat the obesity bulge - and a Mintel survey found that 23% of consumers believe mini-sized chocolate bars to be a good way to control their chocolate consumption -  but are manufacturers leaving themselves open to attack if they reduce sizes? 

The same Mintel survey found that 56% of chocolate buyers said they feel cheated if manufacturers keep the product the same price but reduce the pack size. In 2013, for instance, the UK Mars bar went from 58 g to 51 g, and a Snickers bar from 58 g to 48 g, while the 51p price tag remained the same. 

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