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17 August 2018

Beanz and gone (twice)

Advertising Standards Authority throws out Heinz Beanz advert for the second time due to nutritional claims.

‘Protein’ is an inescapable buzzword within the food and nutrition industry. For years, brands have cashed in on the nation’s interest with products such as protein bars, protein shakes, protein coffee and now even protein beer. Marketing and labelling a product as ‘high in protein’ is a widespread tactic being employed to encourage sales.

Twentieth century staples are being displaced by these products but often the nutritional values are no better. This was the message that Heinz was trying to convey in their advert – don’t write off the old fashioned humble baked bean.

The advert showed a man explaining his new fitness regime to his family whereby he took a protein shake out of the fridge and stated “This is the last P: Protein, with high fibre and minimal fat.”

The woman then responded to the man’s statement by saying “Right. We’re just having some beans.”

Directly after the woman’s response a tag appeared on the screen stating “High in protein. High in Fibre. Low in Fat.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered the context of the woman’s statement and tag line and found that viewers would interpret this to mean that beans had as much protein, fibre and fat as the protein shake that had been displayed.

In its ruling the ASA makes it clear - Heinz did not actually state that Heinz Beanz contained as much protein, fibre and fat as a typical protein shake. But it was sufficient for the ASA that viewers of the advert would interpret it as meaning Heinz Beanz were a tastier and more appetising, but nutritionally equivalent, alternative to a protein shake.

The crux of the issue is that Heinz made a comparison to another food. Under the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) 13.4, marketers are only allowed to make nutritional claims that are listed in the updated Annex of the EU Regulation (EC) No1924/2006. For example:

Cow’s Milk products help support dental health and support the normal and healthy development of teeth’

is a permitted health claim listed in the Annex. If a nutritional claim is made then it must be listed in the Annex or the ASA can ban the advert.

The case outline above was not permitted as Heinz attempted to claim that one food has “as much” of a nutrient as another food. This claim is not one which is listed in the Annex and therefore the ASA found the advert to contravene BCAP 13.4 and issued a ban.

The commercial had originally been barred in 2017 for the same reason after the woman responded using the word “Same”. Heinz believed that by replacing the word ‘same’ with ‘right’ it removed the comparison and the advert would be permitted.

The ASA has shown here that it will not permit adverts that compare nutritional values and their key concern is the interpretation of the advert and how it will be perceived by the general public rather than matter-of-fact linguistics.

A spokesman for Heinz stated that the advert “simply aimed to be a memory jogger about the goodness of beans in a humorous way”. The fact Heinz pitted it against a 21st century newcomer proved to be their downfall.

Is the question going around your head right now: “Does a tin of Heinz Beanz actually have the same nutritional content as a protein shake?”

To answer your question, the nutritional content of the pair are as follows:

Tin of Heinz baked beans (415g):

  • 19.4g of protein
  • 15.4g of fibre
  • 0.86 of fat

Pre-mixed protein shake*: *Leading brand, 500ml

  • 50g of protein
  • 12.5g of fibre
  • 1.5g of fat

This article was written by Harry Taylor. For more information please contact Harry on or at harry.taylor@crsblaw.com.

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