Tesco Plant Chef ads banned over lack of evidence for environmental claims

The supermarket said it had lowered the price of dozens of its Plant Chef products “because a little swap can make a difference to the planet”.

07 June 2022

Ads for Tesco’s Plant Chef burgers have been banned over “misleading” claims that the products could make a positive difference to the environment compared with their meat equivalents.

The TV, video on demand, radio, press, Twitter and website ads in October and November featured a woman about to eat a burger while hearing the words on television: “The planet is continuing to warm,” after which a voice-over said: “Now that’s not what Zoe likes to hear, but she’s gonna roll up her sleeves and do her bit … and there it is, a delicious Tesco Plant Chef burger.

“We’ve lowered the price of dozens of our Plant Chef products because a little swap can make a difference to the planet.”

Woman takes bite out of plant burger in Tesco advert
The advert, which features a woman eating a Tesco burger, was said to be misleading (Tesco/PA)

Tesco’s website stated: “We’ve lowered the price of dozens of Plant Chef products Because a little swap is good for your pocket and even better for the planet.”

The ads attracted 171 complaints that the claims around swapping products were misleading.

Tesco said the claims were not, nor meant to be, “absolute environmental claims” as they did not claim that the products were wholly sustainable or good for the planet.

The supermarket giant said the wording “little” played an important part in determining the breadth of the claims, adding that they were not claiming that the products were sustainable or good in and of themselves, but that by eating plant-based products as opposed to meat-based, consumers could make a small or “little” difference.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: “Because we considered the ads implied that switching to products in the Plant Chef range would positively affect the environment, we expected to see evidence that that was the case based on the full life cycle of the Plant Chef burger in comparison with a meat burger.

“However, we understood that Tesco did not hold any evidence in relation to the full lifecycle of any of the products in the Plant Chef range, or of the burger featured in the ads. We were therefore unable to assess the product’s total environment impact over its life cycle compared with that of a meat burger.

“Because we had not seen evidence … that demonstrated that Plant Chef products could make a positive environmental difference to the planet compared to their meat equivalents, nor had we seen evidence for the full life cycle of the Plant Chef burger, we concluded the claims regarding their positive benefits to the planet had not been substantiated and were likely to mislead.”

Tesco boss’ salary
Tesco claimed the use of the word ‘little’ played an important role in the ad (Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA)

Separately, the ASA found that a radio and TV ad for Sainsbury’s that promoted the general benefits to the environment of reducing meat protein in substitution for plant protein were not misleading.

Four complainants had argued that chickpeas, lentils and beans featured in the ads were grown and imported from abroad and so would have a greater environmental impact than domestically produced meat.

However the ASA ruled: “Because we considered both ads would be understood as promoting the general benefits to the environment of reducing meat protein in substitution for plant protein, we concluded the claims ‘better for the planet’ and ‘help the planet’ were not misleading.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “We offer hundreds of plant-based options and while we are disappointed by this outcome, our customers can continue to count on us to help them enjoy a better balanced diet with plenty more delicious and affordable plant-based products in the pipeline.”

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