Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nutella: Healthy Breakfast or Guilty Pleasure?

Nutella has been running a TV ad in the last couple of weeks that left me dumb-founded when I saw it recently. It basically said that Nutella is an essential part of a healthy breakfast for kids… In my head, Nutella has always been associated with guilty pleasure – at 541 calories for 100 grams (per the Nutella web site and its section on Nutrition Facts) and knowing that adults need between 2000 and 2500 calories per day to function properly (according to the USDA, the US Department of Agriculture), you’d better not feel guilty too much or too often…

1600 calories being the suggested daily intake for kids, 100 grams of Nutella and their 541 calories, that already 1/3 of what a kid needs in his or her everyday life.

Now, the folks at Nutella are smart, or scared of the outrage they could cause, or overly politically correct, or even health-conscious - or maybe all of the above... The commercial that shows a girl and a boy with their Mom at breakfast enjoying a few slices of bread with Nutella spread on them is cautious to say through the mother’s voice that “I [the mother] spread a little on all kinds of healthy things like multigrain toasts” (I put the italics). The text further adds that Nutella is made of “wholesome quality ingredients”, i.e. you don’t make your kids ingest garbage… The commercial ends with a glorious “breakfast never tasted this good”… Perfect, the “Holy Trinity” of foods, i.e. taste, quality of ingredients, and healthy nature of all. That’s a home run, Nutella – bravo, Signor Ferrero!!

It is interesting however to note that Nutella’s web site does not say anything about the 541 calories upfront – you have to dig up and find the page on Nutrition Facts where a Nutella jar label is displayed. And you are in luck only if you thought of taking your calculator with you or if the one in your cell phone has not been bugged by your GPS or something… You’ll see on the label that you’ll ingest 200 calories for 37 grams of Nutella (including 100 grams of fat…), i.e. 541 calories for 100 grams. Thank you, Mom – “I use Nutella to get my kids to eat healthy foods” says she in the commercial, yeah, right!!

If you genuinely care about nutrition for your kids, Nutella while not running away from the actual nutrition facts that are less glorious than its Holy Trinity commercial would suggest has you work pretty hard. The web site does mention “Food Pyramid and Guidelines” but only briefly. The Nutella folks have preferred to post a convenient external link to USDA’s MyPyramid’s web site, a tool explaining how to have a balanced diet.

So, alright, we get it… Nutella has a bunch of lawyers who told them how not to go overboard on the “kid targeting” craziness and thus avoid having obese young adults sue them for selling those guys breakfast that maybe tasted good but had them gulp down an insane amount of calories throughout their childhoods.

And targeting kids and their parents is a smart, sort of long-term strategy that helps Nutella build its brand equity over time to speak business language.

But if Nutella and Ferrero are as responsible as I am sure they claim to be, they’d better stop targeting our children and rather feel free to tempt us adults to succumb to guilty pleasures from time to time…

Leave our kids alone, Nutella people!!

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