Ferrero USA, Inc. has settled a class action suit filed against it over the marketing of Nutella by setting up a $3 Million fund for consumer claims and by agreeing to change it labeling and advertising of the product.
The case centered on the claim that Nutella’s ads and labeling misled consumers into believing that the tasty spread was healthy. A chief target was the statement on the back of Nutella’s label stating that it is “An example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast.” In addition, television ads for Nutella touted that it has “simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa” but, not surprisingly, didn’t mention fat or sugar. Based on its nutrition facts label, though, Nutella contains 10.9 grams of sugar per serving (close to 55% of the overall product) and 2 grams of saturated fat (from the palm oil for providing a nice, spreadable texture). As typical in these cases, the Complaint cited every other piece of marketing (especially from Nutella’s website) that suggested that Nutella could be part of a healthy breakfast or that referenced ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and “a hint of cocoa” without also noting the sugar and saturated fat content.
The foregoing apparently gave the plaintiff’s claim enough bite to convince Ferrero that its best interests were served by a $3 Million settlement, notwithstanding the dubious claim that a reasonable consumer could be duped into believing that a sweet, chocolate-hazelnut spread is healthy.
Here’s one of the commercials that Ferrero has agreed to stop running.
If there’s a key lesson from this case, it’s that food companies should rein in marketing efforts which imply that a product high in calories, added sugars, saturated fats and/or sodium is healthy, even if the individual statements are all literally true. Notably, Ferrero has also agreed to add the “Facts Up Front” panels to Nutella’s label which should also dampen such claims in the future.