Nutella isn't a health food? But it's made with hazelnuts — nuts are good for you. And chocolate — doesn't chocolate contain healthy antioxidants?
Two class-action lawsuits against Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, say the company's claims in a recent TV commercial that Nutella spread on toast makes a healthy breakfast for children went a little too far, according to the New York Daily News. (One suit was for California, where the suit originated, and the other was for hazelnut-spread victims in the rest of the country.)
In the ad, a mom touts the sweet spread's “simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa” as an ideal way to start the day.
In fact, a few tablespoons of Nutella spread onto toast contain the caloric (200), fat (3.5 grams, saturated) and sugar (21 grams) equivalent of a Three Musketeers bar, according to Consumerist.com. (Hmm, Three Musketeers bar on toast? Maybe put it under the broiler for a minute or two. Now there's an idea.)
That pissed off a mom in California, who grabbed a lawyer and sued Ferrero for false advertising, saying she was taken in by the ads and started feeding her 4-year-old daughter “the next best thing to a candy bar,” according to court documents. Then friends suggested she look at the label, and just imagine her shock when she discovered there was chocolate and sugar in the stuff (Nutella's main ingredients are sugar and palm oil).
In settling the lawsuits for $3 million, Ferrero agreed to change its marketing campaign, modify its product label, create new TV ads and change the Nutella website (which, as of today, still claims on its homepage: “Nutella … Breakfast never tasted this good!” and offers a “Build Your Own Breakfast” feature. Four “equivalent” choices included 1 slice of whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons of Nutella, 1 cup of strawberries and 8 ounces of 1% milk; or 1 scrambled egg, 2 slices of bacon, ½ cup of fried potatoes and 8 ounces of orange juice.)
The site also has a section on “Nutella and Family,” which states: “A balanced breakfast should provide the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates from whole grains, fat and the nutrients provided by either a serving of fruit or vegetables. For example, a breakfast that consists of a small whole grain bagel with Nutella, 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries and 1 cup of 1% milk is suitable for school-aged children. So why not use Nutella hazelnut spread to turn a balanced breakfast into a tasty one!”
Now, Nutella. We love ya. But, seriously? This ad campaign would've gotten Peggy fired from Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce faster than she lost the Heinz account for depicting hippies enjoying baked beans around a campfire.
Shoppers who bought Nutella between Jan. 1, 2008 and Feb. 3, 2012 (Aug. 1, 2009 and Jan. 23, 2012 if you live in California) can file a claim and join the class action, according to the official notice from the company — you'd end up with about four bucks for a jar. If you too were fooled into thinking the delicious chocolatey goo was good for you, go to nutellaclassactionsettlement.com for more information.
(Editor's note: Or maybe actually read the label before you decide what to have for breakfast.)
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.