Kellogg’s Coco Pops are set for a healthy overhaul in the form of a 15% reduction in sugar content. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian
Kellogg’s has pledged to reduce high levels of sugar in its best-selling children’s cereal following a sustained campaign by health groups.
The company announced nutritional improvements to its existing Coco Pops chocolate cereal range, involving a reduction in sugar, the addition of vitamin D and the launch of a new Coco Pops Choc ‘N’ Roll cereal which will pass the Food Standards Agency’s tougher nutrient profile.
The firm said that by this time next year it would remove 15% of sugar in all its Coco Pops cereals, effectively reducing sugar content to one and a half teaspoons a serving and eliminating almost 750 tonnes of sugar from the nation’s diet annually. The sugar will be replaced with starch from grains and glucose syrup, and no artificial sweeteners will be used. Calories will be maintained at approximately 116 a serving.
The new cereal goes on sale in supermarkets tomorrow, backed by a £3m advertising and marketing campaign aimed specifically at mothers, who are predominantly in charge of the family shop.
Kellogg’s ran into controversy earlier this year after a poster advert depicting its famous cartoon monkey, Coco, dressed in school uniform under the slogan: “Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?” The company admitted it had made a mistake by showing the advert on bus shelters and other locations near schools, which meant it was seen by plenty of children. Marketing manager Peter Harrison said those locations were inappropriate.
Greg Peterson, Kellogg’s UK managing director, said: “We’ve listened to what mums have been saying and we’re responding. They want a balance: lower sugar cereals which children will still eat. We’ve invested millions of pounds … to make this happen.”
The company says it also aims to further reduce the sugar content in its Coco Pops products, provided they pass consumer taste tests.
Peterson added: “This is a process, so while we’ve announced we are taking 15% of sugar out by the middle of next year … we will go further if we can take peoples’ palates with us.”
Britons eat 29m boxes of Coco Pops a year, and 40% of UK households with children have the cereal in their kitchen cupboard.
Health and consumer groups welcomed the move, but said it was long overdue and demanded that changes be made to Kellogg’s entire product range. Jackie Schneider, of the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “We are staggered that Coco Pops currently contains 37% sugar per 100g. So this reformulation is long overdue, and it seems odd to us that the changes are being announced now, when the products won’t appear on the shelves until mid-2011 at the earliest.
“Our understanding is that the new Kellogg’s cereal would get a red traffic light, so should not be seen as an everyday food. The good news is that the nutrient profiling model which determines if food can be advertised to children certainly seems to be driving food manufacturers to reduce high levels of fat, salt and sugar. It is good to see Kellogg’s are moving in the right direction, but there is a world of breakfast foods out there that parents might prefer to these sugary cereals”
Katharine Jenner, campaign manager with the health organisation Consensus Action on Salt and Health and a nutritionist at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: “Keeping children’s salt consumption low is vital. Children who eat higher salt diets are more at risk of higher blood pressure when they are adults, putting them at risk of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. We are pleased to see Kellogg’s are responding to consumer demand and have not put so much salt into their new Coco Pops Choc ‘N’ Roll product. But all their breakfast cereals, not just this one, should be lower in salt.”