INGREDIENTS: Sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor. That's what it says, right there on the back of the Nutella jar.
As the television ads promoting Nutella for breakfast tell us, the hazelnut concoction is “a tasty unique spread made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa.” True. But how anyone who has ever had a single smidge of the fudgey, gooey, frosting-like spread that is Nutella could think it’s as simple as that is pretty startling. And it’s unlikely that confection company Ferrero USA, maker of the sweet nutty cocoa goop, was going to boost sales by promoting Nutella for breakfast with the line, “a tasty unique spread made from the combination of predominantly sugar, palm oil, and hazelnuts.”
Misleading suggestions and evasive ingredient tactics aside, the campaign to convince harried moms to satisfy finicky kids with Nutella for a wholesome morning meal did recommend that the dessert spread be combined with actual healthy items like whole grain toast or whole wheat waffles. They tried to cover to their tails.
But even so, that didn’t stop San Diego mother Athena Hohenberg from suing Ferrero USA for false advertising.
In the suit Hohenberg claimed that she “was shocked to learn” that Nutella “was the next best thing to a candy bar.” Why she never simply pivoted her wrist to reveal the nutrition label on the back and see its tell-all display of sugar and fat? We may never know. But she argued that the TV ads falsely promoted Nutella as a healthy breakfast option, while conveniently giving short shrift to the fact that two tablespoons contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 21 grams of sugar. She sought an order preventing Ferrero from marketing Nutella as “healthy,” “balanced nutrition,” and said her goal was to pursue a class-action suit.
The suit has been settled for $3.05 million, $2.5 million of which will be divided among consumers. Anyone who bought Nutella between Jan. 1, 2008 and Feb. 3, 2012, can file a claim. The company also agreed to change the Nutella label and some marketing statements about the product, as well as create new television ads and modify the brand's website.
What marketing tactics will the company resort to now? As Matthew Herper at Forbes quips, “Note to ad people: if pictures of Nutella on steaming crepes can no longer sell product, we’re all doomed.”
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