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Watchdog upholds two complaints against Huel ruling adverts were misleading

In these straitened times, there is a strong temptation for manufacturers to use money saving tips and claims to promote their products.

When doing so, it is important that what is being claimed is not socially irresponsible, contrary to the non-broadcast code for advertising (the CAP Code). Potentially saving money on food is one thing, but not at the cost of encouraging meals to be replaced by supplements, however good they may be. HUEL’s price claim was explained in the small print in the advert; however, the cost of £50 per month for the HUEL supplement only stacked-up for about one meal a day. The public might infer in the context of a health-related advertising claim that skipping meals would save money and yet cause no health detriment. Even if HUEL were a healthy replacement for ordinary, nutritious food, replacing your three, square, healthy meals with HUEL would actually cost nearer £350 a month. That is plainly misleading. 

All advertising claims must be fair and must not mislead. Advertisers are required to collect evidence to substantiate that claims are objectively verifiable in adverts prior to their publication. This simple measure not only makes response to ASA complaints easier and quicker in the short timeframe given, but should also make advertisers think carefully in the first place about what is being claimed. False claims, or ones which are seen as potentially harmful to the public, can lead to substantial reputational harm. It might also give competitors the ammunition they need to make complaints to the ASA purely to frustrate the marketing efforts of their competition.

The HUEL ruling has an added point of interest for nutritional product adverts. A general health claim must be supported by at least one authorised health claim for an included ingredient on the GB Nutrition and Health Claims register. There are several, specialised rules promoted by the ASA within the CAP Code covering a variety of products and services: these range, for example, from protecting children from injury through mimicking dangerous behaviour to the safe promotion of such things as medicines, alcohol and electronic cigarettes. There are also less obvious rules such as those concerning the use of ‘green’ claims where environmental benefits and sustainability messages are not what they seem and thereby mislead the public.

Huel adverts that claimed its meal replacement shakes could help consumers save money during the cost of living crisis have been banned after the advertising watchdog ruled they were misleading and irresponsible.

One advert, which ran on Facebook in August and September, said the shakes helped “keep money in your pockets”, and claimed an “entire month’s worth of Huel” worked out at less than £50.

The second advert, on the company’s website, was entitled “Five ways to save money on food” and said: “Eating healthily doesn’t need to break the bank.”

The Advertising Standards Authority, which upheld two complaints made against the firm, acknowledged Huel said its products would save money when compared with other expensive convenience foods, but said the adverts did not make that clear.”