Marketing

Kellogg’s gives Mini-Wheats cereal the sweet treatment – is this misleading conduct?

Yolanda Redrup /

Kellogg’s has replaced its healthy low-sugar Mini-Wheats cereal with “frosted” and chocolate flavoured substitutes under the same name and labelling, a move which consumer lawyers believe could be deceiving to consumers.

It’s also been criticised by health groups, as parents are now left with even fewer healthy cereal options for their kids.

The original Mini-Wheats 5 Grains had been included in consumer group Choice’s list of healthy cereals, but the new product is unlikely to maintain its 5-star rating.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald,the new cereal product has 66% more sugar than the original 5 Grains version.

Hall and Wilcox partner Sally Scott told SmartCompany the product change by Kellogg’s could potentially constitute misleading conduct.

“The test is whether consumers could be misled by the overall impression of the packaging,” she says.

“Even if packaging correctly lists ingredients in a nutritional information box, this will not necessarily save packaging from being misleading. It comes down to the overall impression of the packaging.”

SmartCompany contacted Kellogg’s for comment, but received no response prior to publication.

But according to The Sydney Morning Herald, Kellogg’s confirmed the cereal swap in a statement.

“We are aware that this change has upset some consumers and are taking this feedback on board,” Kellogg’s says as quoted by the paper.

“Despite the change in recipe, Kellogg’s new Mini-Wheats Little Bites contain only 5 per cent of the recommended daily sugar intake.

“All Kellogg’s products, including new Mini-Wheats Little Bites, have percentage daily intake on the front of all our packs, so shoppers can make a decision without even taking the foods off the shelf.”

Scott says a consumer’s overall impression of a product is impacted by things such as images on the packaging, the prominence or lack thereof given to specific words.

“It can also be affected by what consumers already know or expect about a product and this is particularly relevant in relation to Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats,” she says.

“Consumers don’t look at packaging in a vacuum. They bring life experience and knowledge. If the overall impression is that a product is healthy and contains little sugar, the fact that ingredients are listed on the back of a package will not usually be sufficient.”

Last year, politicians Nick Xenophon, Bob Katter and Clive Palmer formed an unlikely trio in pushing for changes to food labelling laws.

The push focused predominantly on changes to products claiming to be ‘Australian Made’, but health and consumer groups have also been pushing for a star labelling system to be introduced to make it easier for consumers to identify health products.

Under the proposed star labelling system, products would be awarded a star if they passed nutrient criteria for saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. One star would be given for passing each category.

Scott says the issue with Kellogg’s new product is the use of the same name and similar packaging to the previous healthier Mini-Wheats.

“The issue here is whether by reason of Kellogg’s past use of the name and packaging with a healthy product, consumers are likely to be misled into believing that the new product is similarly healthy,” she says.

“However, there will be other relevant factors. Kellogg’s would no doubt point to factors such as the prominent use of the word ‘chocolate’ and the colouring of the product on the front of the packaging. Kellogg’s would assert that these factors would not result in an overall impression that the product was healthy, like its predecessor.”

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