Claims that Huel meal replacements can help people save money are ‘irresponsible’8 Mar 2023
Powdered food brand Huel’s advertising claims that people could save money on food by buying its meal replacements were “misleading” and “irresponsible”, the UK’s advertising watchdog has said.
The UK’s advertising regulatory group, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), recently investigated social media adverts for Huel that ran on Facebook in August and September 2022 for suggesting that its products could save people money on food.
Huel, which sells nutritional powder, ready-to-drink beverages, and energy bars, referenced the current cost of living crisis in its advert by asking, “Want to save money on food?”
“Huel helps keep money in your pockets. An entire month’s worth of Huel works out at less than £50. Huel isn’t just the healthy option with perfectly balanced protein, carbs, fats and fibres, it’s the smart option too.”
Holding ads to high standards
The ads in question compared Huel nutrition information and price with that of regular food, claiming “All The Nutrients You Need. 1 Meal.” But at the same time, the company stated on its website, “while we’ll never call Huel a meal replacement, it is often thought as such in this context,” according to ASA.
ASA said it looked into “whether proposing meal replacement products as a way of saving money on food was irresponsible and misleading”.
In its ruling posted 15 February, ASA said “Huel said that it had been their mission to make complete, convenient food that was affordable, since their business had started in 2015. They said it had not been a response to the financial crisis, although they understood that it was a significant consideration to consumers at the time the ad was published.”
Ultimately, ASA determined that the ads were misleading, and that they breached CAP code rules for social responsibility. ASA banned the ads from appearing in this form, and instructed Huel to ensure any future adverts do not “state or imply that eating Huel for all meals instead of a ‘traditional’ diet was cheaper, unless they held adequate substantiation.”
“We also told them to ensure their ads did not imply that three portions of Huel per day contained sufficient calories. We told them not to make general health claims unless they were accompanied by a specific authorised health claim,” ASA said.
Huel responds and moves forward
Founded in 2015, Huel’s original powder product was marketed to mix with water into a healthy drink that helps manage weight.
“Huel is nutritionally complete food. This means every Huel meal contains a balance of all 27 essential vitamins and minerals, protein, essential fats, carbs, fiber and phytonutrients in a single product,” Huel says on its website.
The brand also has some high-powered endorsements. Huel partners with social media fitness influencers and is backed by actor Idris Elba and presenter Jonathan Ross.
Per the ASA ruling, Huel said it did not believe that its ad advocated for the substitution of all meals. They also “did not believe the ad was misleading, and regretted any confusion that may have been perceived by their ads.”
In a statement emailed to IngredientsNetwork, a Huel spokesperson said, “We take our responsibilities under the CAP code seriously and when brought to our attention we pulled the ads and removed the article from our website.”
“Since day one, Huel's mission has been to make nutritionally complete, convenient and affordable food and we will continue to do so.”
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