KitKat Cereal Box

Nestlé has been forced to withdraw claims over its new Kit Kat breakfast cereal, after being taken to task by former health tsar Henry Dimbleby.

Dimbleby, who stood down as a special adviser to the government in March over lack of government action on reformulation, said marketing surrounding the product had been misleading.

It described the product as “tasty and nutritious” and pointed to its content of B vitamins and minerals.

However, in a tweet Dimbleby described the ad as a “joke” and said he had received a text from a senior industry insider saying: “Nestlé is the world’s leading nutrition and health and wellness company. Maybe that’s why they have to use nutritious to describe it, otherwise they would be off mission.”

The product, which launched in the UK in March, is made with a milk chocolate-flavoured coating, as well as calcium and iron, It provides 126 calories per 30g serving, with 11 servings per pack.

But Dimbleby said it was not credible to claim that most people consumed only 30g per serving.

“Tasty and nutritious,” he tweeted. “This really is taking the p@@@.”

Also in March, Nestlé claimed it had set a “new standard” for transparent reporting after revealing nearly 40% of its sales of everyday food products in the UK were high in salt, sugar or fat (HFSS).

It claimed a world first by publishing a breakdown of its entire global portfolio, and also gave UK national data for sales based on a government-recognised nutrient profiling model.

“It is always our intention to be responsible and transparent in the marketing of our products, and we adhere to local regulations and guidelines,” said a Nestlé spokeswoman.

“The word “nutritious” was not used in the UK advertising and marketing of the Kit Kat Cereal product. Instead it was and continues to be described as a “an occasional, indulgent breakfast option, that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet”.

“The product is a global product which has launched first in the UK. The global website copy of the product, which is where confusion has stemmed from, has been amended and the word ‘nutritious’ is not used in relation to the product.”

However, Ben Reynolds, deputy CEO at Sustain, said the misleading advertising demonstrated the need for tougher regulation.

“Nestlé says it’s committed to developing healthy food, but it’s still developing sugar-laden products and marketing them with outlandish claims about nutrition,” he said.

“Nestlé’s marketing rightly generated a backlash but it shouldn’t take this for companies to act. If food companies won’t act in the public interest, the case for government regulation is clear.”