Alpro UK has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority following a complaint against one of its ads that claimed its products were ‘good for the planet’.
The dairy alternatives giant drew the complaint, upheld by the ASA, for a poster campaign on London buses last October.
Carrying the tagline ‘Next stop. Your recipe to a healthier planet!’ alongside wording stating the Alpro range was ‘good for the planet’ and ‘good for you’, the ad featured an image of three Alpro products – including the supplier’s almond drink.
However, the ASA said the complainant, who believed commercial almond farming caused environmental damage, challenged whether the claim ‘good for the planet’ was “misleading and could be substantiated”.
In response to the complaint, Alpro said consumers would understand “the claims ‘recipe for a healthier planet’ and ‘good for the planet’” meant that plant-based foods, such as the Alpro products shown in the ad, “had a lower environmental impact than alternative dairy-based products”.
The brand added plant-based drinks required “substantially less water and land and generated substantially lower CO2 emissions, than cow milk”, referring to several studies it said showed that soy drinks, almond drinks, oat drinks and rice drinks had a lower environmental impact.
Alpro also said the almonds used in its almond drink were cultivated in a sustainable way that minimised water use and protected biodiversity and pollinating insects.
But while acknowledging the fact Alpro’s almonds were not sourced from regions with a negative environmental impact, the ASA upheld the complaint by stating the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code “required that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and that unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information”.
The ASA considered it was not clear “what the basis of the claim ‘good for the planet’ was”, and therefore concluded the ad was misleading and breached the code. It said the ad must not appear again in its original form, while Alpro was told to ensure the future basis of its environmental claims “was clear”.
Following the publication of the ruling, Alpro said it had “taken note” of the ASA’s decision and confirmed the ad would not be reintroduced in the same form.
However, it added it was “disappointed about this outcome” given that plant-based drinks such as the Alpro products shown in the ad had “a significant lower environmental impact than dairy products” – something the brand said was “a generally accepted scientific fact (as has been confirmed by the ASA Council before)”.
In response to the ASA enquiry, Alpro had submitted evidence – including full lifecycle assessments – confirming the benefits of its products to the planet, it added, including comparison with dairy products.
“Our evidence has not been disputed. Moreover, this outcome also contradicts earlier ASA rulings on similar advertising messages where the ASA came to a different conclusion,” it added. “Taking all of this into account, we remain convinced that the average consumer would understand the ad as it was intended.”
The ruling was the ASA’s first relating to environmental claims since it published a statement last month, warning advertisers it intended to “crack down on misleading and socially irresponsible environmental advertising”.
Its sister body the CAP will issue guidance to industry, setting out the key principles advertisers need to follow to ensure their ads don’t mislead about the environment, later this year.