That’s despite breakfast cereals and yogurts having celebrated the largest reductions in sugars between 2015 and 2020 (14.9% and 13.5% respectively) as part of the Government’s Sugar Reduction Programme – which is still shy of the 20% target they were supposed to achieve.
The research by Action on Sugar, based at Queen Mary University of London, revealed that only nine cereals and six yogurts surveyed were found to be low in sugars and only four cereals were low in both sugars and salt. The group is therefore calling for the complete removal of packaging that appeals to children from these products that are high or medium for sugars, salt and/or saturated fat.
Action on Sugar compared the average amount of sugars per 100g in each company’s range of products with packaging that would appeal to children. Some 47% of cereals surveyed contained one third of a 4–6-year-olds daily maximum sugars recommendation (19g/ 5 tsp) in just one bowl (based on manufacturers serving, excluding milk).
On average, Lidl, Nestle and Aldi contained the highest sugars per 100g across their range of cereals with packaging that appeals to children. Examples of cereals with the highest sugars among these companies:
- Lidl Crownfield Choco Hazelnut Pillows - 28.5g sugars/100g (8.6g sugars / 2 teaspoons per serve)
- Nestlé Lion Caramel & Chocolate Cereal – 25g sugars/100g (7.5g sugars / 2 teaspoons per serve)
- Aldi Harvest Morn Honey Nut Crunchy Cornflakes – 28g sugars/100g (8.5g sugars / 2 teaspoons per serve)
Some 65% of yogurts surveyed contained one third of a 4–6-year-olds daily maximum sugars recommendation (19g/5tsp) based on the manufacturer's recommended serving. On average, Nestlé, Lidl and Aldi contained the highest sugars per 100g across their range of yogurts with packaging that appeals to children. Examples of yogurts with the highest sugars among these companies:
- Nestlé Smarties Vanilla – 14.6g sugars/100g (15.6g sugars / 4 teaspoons sugar per serve)
- Lidl Milbona Fruit Duo Fromage Frais Raspberry & Vanilla - 12.5g sugars/100g (12.5g sugars / 3 teaspoons sugar per serve)
- Aldi Brooklea Double Delights Raspberry & Vanilla Fromage Frais– 11.8g sugars/100g (10.1g sugars / 2.5 teaspoons sugar per serve)
Packaging that appeals to children includes the use of cartoon characters, animations, vibrant colours and familiar characters that strongly resonate with children. Known as ‘pester power’, this marketing tactic is intentionally designed to attract the attention of children and influence their caregivers’ purchasing.
Whilst there are restrictions in place to prevent the irresponsible advertising of foods high in fat, salt, and sugar during peak viewing times for children, an evident loophole exists when it comes to product packaging. Unlike advertisements, there are no specific restrictions governing the visual appeal and design of packaging which influences children’s preferences. According to the group, a potential solution lies in redirecting such visually captivating packaging strategies towards healthier food products, which are sold in plain packaging targeted at adults.
Registered Nutritionist Dr Kawther Hashem, Campaign Lead at Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London said: “It’s ludicrous that whilst breakfast cereals and yogurts celebrate the largest reductions in sugars during the Sugar Reduction Programme, those same products with child-appealing packaging still have excessive amounts of sugars, unsuitable for regular intake by children.
“Given the soaring numbers of under-18s suffering weight-related health problems and tooth decay being the leading cause of child hospitalisation, now is the time for companies to be forced to remove child-appealing packaging from products that are misleading parents and making our children unhealthy and sick.”
Cereals with child-appealing packaging containing low sugars and salt:
- Nestle Bitesize Shredded Wheat
- Tesco Super Smooth Porridge
- Troo Happy Porridge with Flaxseed Omega 3s and Uplifting Cinnamon
- Troo Energise Porridge with Chocolate & Maca
Yogurts with child-appealing packaging containing low sugars:
- Asda Lactose Free Banana / Strawberry Greek Yogurts
- Asda Little Angels Organic Strawberry / Peach Fromage Frais
- Yoplait Petit Filous Apple, Pear and Banana No Added Sugar
- Yoplait Petit Filous Strawberry and Banana No Added Sugar