California mom Athena Hohenberg identified with the down-to-earth mom in the Nutella commercial. She convinced Hohenberg that the spread was “nutritious” and constituted a “healthy breakfast.” However, Hohenberg’s home-girl broke the news to her that feeding the child Nutella for breakfast was no better than handing her a Snickers.
Feeling duped, Hohenberg filed a class action suit against Ferrero, makers of the brand. She, along with another mother, won their cases. Ferrero settled, setting up a $3 million settlement fund that will award customers up to $4 a jar in damages.
I’d passed by the red and white labeled jar numerous times before finally trying the product. But once I did, I was hooked. And I realized that this little jar of decadence was nowhere near healthy.
In comparing Nutella’s nutritional information to that of a jar of Skippy® peanut butter, Nutella has less protein and fiber than peanut butter and no Vitamin E—three of the attributes that warrant peanut butter its nutritious stamp of approval. Plus, Nutella has 21 grams of sugar in a two-tablespoon serving, compared to Skippy’s three grams in the same quantity.
The company has tried to position the product as a peanut butter alternative. This probably has less to do with Nutella’s nutritional value and more to do with the rising costs of peanuts and peanut butter.
Laurent Belsie, business editor at The Christian Science Monitor, included a transcript of a Nutella commercial (from court documents) in his article:
As a mom, I’m a great believer in Nutella, a delicious hazelnut spread that I use to get my kids to eat healthy foods. I spread a little on all kinds of healthy things, like multigrain toast. Every jar has wholesome, quality ingredients, like hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of delicious cocoa. And Nutella has no artificial colors or preservatives. It’s quick, it’s easy, and at breakfast I can use all the help I can get.
Did you catch that? She didn’t say, “I feed my kids Nutella because it’s healthy and nutritious,” or “I feed my kids Nutella because it’s even more tasty and nutritious than peanut butter.” She said she slathers a bit of the good stuff on the healthy stuff to get her kids to eat right. The same way I shroud rice cereal in fruit puree to get Nailah to eat breakfast.
I couldn’t find the video for this ad online. However, I did find video for the Nutella ad I see frequently. The transcript is below:
Breakfast? In this house? In the morning, I can use all the help I can get. That’s why I love Nutella, a delicious hazelnut spread that’s perfect on multi-grain toast and even whole wheat waffles. It’s a quick and easy way to give my family a breakfast they’ll want to eat. And Nutella is made with simple quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa. They love the taste and I feel good that they’re ready to tackle the day. Nutella. Breakfast never tasted this good.
The first ad makes it clear that the mother uses Nutella to get her kids to eat healthy foods. This point is only implied in the second ad, but phrases like “simple quality ingredients” and “they’re ready to tackle the day” weaken the implied message.
What do you think? Can you see how Hohenberg was led to believe that Nutella was a healthy breakfast alternative for her daughter?
Product Copy Watch examines phrasing used in product commercials, labels and print/web advertisements and the impact these words have on buyers.