Advertising Standards Agency Upholds Costa Coffee Avocado Healthy Lifestyle Complaint

A Costa Coffee advert that implied a bacon roll or egg muffin breakfast was a better deal than an avocado has been banned from airplay, after the Advertising Standards Agency ruled it discouraged eating fresh fruit or vegetables.

The advert jokingly told listeners that there is a great deal on avocados, although they will be nearly inedible for all but a very short window of time, and that the better deal is to buy a bacon roll or egg muffin with a drink. The ASA however, have strict rules regarding the comparisons that can be made between food products and food options that are generally accepted should form a large part of an average diet, and it was argued that the advert discouraged eating avocados as a breakfast item.

The ASA’s codes are in place to stop misleading nutritional claims from being part of advertising campaigns. As part of the BCAP Code (specifically, rule 13.5), adverts are not allowed to disparage good dietary advice, and as such they cannot disparage fruits and vegetables compared to a less healthy option.

Costa argued that their comparison was light hearted, making fun of the unpredictable nature of avocados and was not intended to compare their bacon roll or egg muffin deal to an avocado, just that they had a breakfast promotional offer, and the “better deal” aspect was only in reference to the price.

The complication here is in the unambiguity of the code’s rule, in that anything that would discourage selecting a healthier option is not allowed. During the advert the advert emphasised the negative experience of buying avocados, albeit in a light hearted manner, such as ensuring they are ripe, how often they take to ripen and how edible they are throughout the timeframe. The ASA noted the advert was light hearted but would nevertheless discourage someone from eating a fresh fruit and therefore breached the code.

Costa have been instructed not to broadcast the advert again and ensure their future adverts don’t encourage bad nutritional habits nor disparage healthier alternatives.