The truth about cereal bars

On World Consumer Rights Day, Which? is calling for clear traffic light nutrition labelling on the front of all cereal bar packs after finding some contain over 40% sugar and many don’t live up to their healthy image.

Our snapshot survey of 15 leading cereal bars and breakfast biscuits analysed the amount of sugar in each bar and found some are more suited to the confectionery aisle, including those marketed directly at children.

We found a Kellogg’s Coco Pops Snack Bar – aimed at children – was the worst offender of those we looked at, made up of a staggering 42% sugar. Others marketed at children, such as Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Bar and Frosties Bar and Harvest Chewee (Milk Choc Chip) were also high in sugar and saturated fat.

Some cereal bars make claims about the health benefits, such as the vitamin and mineral content but we found while Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Fruit Breakfast Bars (Strawberry) contains 31% wholegrain cereal, they are made up of a third (33%) sugar. Quaker Oat So Simple Golden Syrup Morning Bars, which are just over 15% sugar, were the lowest for sugar overall.

Only one of the leading products we looked at had clear traffic light nutrition labelling on the front of pack. Mars’s Tracker Bar displays the scheme, making it clear that it is high in sugar, fat and saturated fat.

A new Which? survey has found that just a quarter (26%) of people are satisfied with the action government is taking to help people to eat healthily and only 23% in the case of manufacturers. The top actions people say they want from government include encouraging industry to lower the fat, sugar and salt content in foods and ensuring that food companies don’t use tactics that appeal to children to promote less healthy food.

As part of World Consumer Rights Day, Which? is supporting Consumers International’s call on governments to support a  Global Convention to Protect and Promote Healthy Diets. Which? wants the next government to lead initiatives to make it easier to eat healthily and ultimately tackle rates of obesity and diet-related disease. This should include industry-wide take up of traffic light labelling, ensuring more responsible promotions and reductions in levels of fat, sugar and salt in foods.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said:

“It’s worrying that cereal bars, especially those aimed at children or claiming to be healthy, contain so much sugar but most don’t make this clear on the front of the pack.

“We now want the Government to tackle this issue head on by making sure all manufacturers use traffic light nutrition labelling, encouraging reductions in sugar, fat and salt and ensuring manufacturers promote their products responsibly.”

Notes to editors:

1.    World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement. It marks the date in 1962 President John F Kennedy first outlined the definition of Consumer Rights. In 2015 the focus is on healthier diets.

2.    Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2102 UK adults online about barriers to healthier eating between 6th and 8th March 2015. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

3.     PepsiCo, which owns Quaker, has signed up to the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal pledge on front of pack nutrition labelling although this does not yet appear on pack.

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Cereal Bar Table

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