Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the watchdog’s annual list of misleading packaging highlighted claims food manufacturers used to market their products as better choices.
“Low fat”, “wholegrain”, “no refined sugar”, “no artificial colours or flavours” and “natural” were among the claims used to increase products’ appeal.
Consumer NZ’s Bad Taste award winners included companies promoting their fruit and vege content when they contained very little of it, and products making meaningless animal welfare claims also featured.
Nestle’s cereal touts it’s “made with wholegrain wheat and corn”, is “a source of fibre”, has “no artificial colours or flavours” and contains zinc, calcium, niacin and iron “to help kids’ normal growth and development”.
Despite these claims, this cereal is 30 per cent sugar, Chetwin claimed.
A Nestle spokeswoman Margaret Stuart said the company had reformulated the cereal over the years, reducing sugar and saturated fat, increasing fibre by 40 per cent and doubling the amount of wholegrain.
“People choose chocolate-flavoured cereals like Nesquik for taste, and there comes a point where you can’t reduce sugar without significantly affecting the flavour, texture,” Stuart said.
Nature Valley Crunchy Oats & Honey snack bars
Chetwin said the bars were marketed as an “excellent source of whole grain”, “lactose free”, and “packed with natural whole grain oats and real honey”, making them the “perfect on-the-go snack”. But sugar was the second largest ingredient in these snack bars.
“In each serving, there’s 12 grams – that’s three teaspoons,” Chetwin said.
Nature Valley has been contacted for comment.
Simply Squeezed Super Juice Warrior
The label claims this juice is a “good source of vitamin C for immune system support” and has no added colours or flavours.
But a 250ml glass of the juice has 29.2g of sugar – seven teaspoons.
Frucor Suntory, the brand’s owner, has been contacted for comment.
Coca Cola’s E2
Marketed as a fruit-flavoured drink “combined with vitamins and minerals to give consumers a delicious fruity blast”, a single-serve 800 mililitre bottle of E2 has 78g of sugar – nearly 20 teaspoons.
Manufacturer Coca-Cola labels this drink as a “supplemented food”, a term used where foods have been modified to provide a benefit beyond meeting basic nutrition needs. “But we fail to see much benefit in consuming almost 20 teaspoons of sugar,” Chetwin said.
Nutri-Grain TO GO Protein Squeezer
Kelloggs’ Nutri-Grain plastic-packaged squeezers are promoted as “perfect for young New Zealanders on the go”, with protein to help them stay fuller for longer.
But read the ingredients list and you’ll find sugar near the top.
As for the protein, Chetwin said the majority of Kiwis already get ample amounts of it in their diet.
Kelloggs have been contacted for comment.
Baby Mum-Mum First Rice Rusks
These rice rusks boast they contain kale, spinach, carrot and cabbage, as well as being “all natural”. But the ingredient list reveals these “wholesome, nutritious” rice rusks contain only a light sprinkling of vegetables, just 1.36 per cent.
Baby Mum Mum has been contacted.
Bounce Cacao Mint Protein Energy Ball
The pack claims these energy balls are “nutritious”, “balanced”, “gluten free”, “a wholefood blend of organic cacao, mint and seeds” with “no refined sugar”. But instead of the refined stuff, rice syrup and grape juice have been added for sweetness. Each 42g ball is 22.8 per cent sugar.
Bounce Foods has been contacted for comment
Fresh ‘n Fruity Berries Galore yoghurt
Sugar is the second largest ingredient (after milk) in four of the six pots in Fresh ‘n Fruity Berries Galore yoghurt.
The “berry combo” pots contain just 3.5 per cent berries, while the “berries and cherries” pots have 3.5 per cent of just the one berry (raspberry) and only one per cent cherry.
Only the “simply strawberry” pots have more (nine per cent).
Fonterra has been contacted for comment.
Tegel, Ingham, Pams “cage free” chicken
Consumer NZ said Tegel, Ingham and Pams made meangingless animal welfare claims.
“Cage free” claims on your chicken might sound reassuring. But these claims are meaningless and risk misleading shoppers about what they’re buying, Chetwin said.
Chickens raised for meat aren’t kept in cages. And cage free doesn’t mean free range – the chooks don’t leave the shed.
The companies have been contacted for comment.
The full list of Bad Taste Food Awards can be found here.