New Rice Krispies formula and packaging not misleading, ad watchdog finds

14 December 2018 - 06:30 By Nico Gous
The new vs the old Rice Krispies packaging.
The new vs the old Rice Krispies packaging.
Image: Wendy Knowler

Buying the well-known Rice Krispies cereal “creates certain expectations in totality” - but believing it is made out of rice is not one of them.

“The word ‘rice’ therefore does not have the same import that it might have with a new product on the market. Rather, the term ‘Rice Krispies’ creates certain expectations in totality.”

That is what the ad watchdog, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB), said in its dismissal of Bradley Wilson’s complaint about the new Rice Krispies formula and its packaging.

The front of the cereal box states it’s a “puffed multigrain cereal”. A banner on the front reads: “New and improved vanilla flavour; made with multigrain ...”

Wilson complained that:

  • The recipe now contains 49% puffed rice where it used to have 89%;
  • Multigrain is a health hazard to consumers who are wheat or corn intolerant;
  • Wheat or gluten intolerant consumers or diabetics cannot eat the new formula; and
  • “Rice” in the name is misleading because it “does not consist primarily of rice”.

Kellogg’s argued the:

  • The cereal was never marketed for diabetics;
  • The previous recipe also contained gluten and sugar, albeit at lower levels; and
  • The allergen gluten was stipulated on the previous packaging.

Kellogg’s felt the hate from South Africans earlier this year when they changed the Rice Krispies formula.

More than 500 consumers shared their outrage on the company’s Facebook page, accusing Kellogg’s of “tricking” them into buying the “new‚ improved” Rice Krispies by not making it clear that the product is entirely different.

The ARB reviewed the packaging of the new Rice Krispies formula and found:

  • The cereal is now “puffed multigrain” where it used to say “oven toasted grains of rice”;
  • The consumer’s eyes are drawn to the “new” displayed in a large font;
  • “Contains wheat (gluten)” was also on the old packaging; and
  • Rice flour is still the main ingredient.

The ARB concluded that the hypothetical reasonable consumer with special dietary needs is “clearly and unambiguously informed that this is a "new" formulation and that it is "multigrain".

“A hypothetical reasonable consumer with special dietary needs would, therefore, consult the ingredient list to determine whether the product still met their needs or not.”

It added that there was no reason to conclude that those who ate the cereal before “would now be misled and harmed”.