wait, Nutella is BAD for you?

Add it to the Making-Us-All-Look-Bad Files:  California mother Athena Hohnenberg sued Nutella because their marketing led her to believe their Duncan Hines frosting in an European jar was healthy.

Or maybe it’s the Making-Us-All-Look-Like-Idiots-For-Not-Doing-It-First Files, since a California judge has just ordered Ferrero Inc to pay her three million dollars.

I totally, absolutely do not get this. Sure, I have deluded myself that stirring Nutella into my children’s morning oatmeal was more refined than dumping a melted Snickers bar in there. But I did so fully aware that I was kidding myself. When the nutritional information is right there on the side of the jar, I’m not sure how you can argue that it’s Nutella’s fault if you’re in denial.

The judge agreed with Hohnenberg’s assertion that Nutella’s advertising was deliberately misleading. While Ferrero doesn’t actually come out on TV and SAY “This stuff is arteriosclerosis on a spoon,” I don’t think they ever did a better job of convincing me they were “part of this healthy breakfast” than, say, Frankenberry.

This reminds me of a similar lawsuit two and a half years ago when Baby Einstein was shockingly proven to not make babies geniuses. Apparently someone’s kid got to pre-K without diagramming sentences in German, sued Disney, and that was the end of what had been my children’s favorite age-appropriate viewing.

At that time Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation justified the Baby Einstein burning-at-the-stake this way:

My impression is that parents really believe these videos are good for their children, or at the very least, not really bad for them.

You know what? That is EXACTLY my impression. The Baby Einstein DVD’s were, at the very least, “not really bad” for my children. Not compared to a lot of other stuff on television. And I feel the same way about Nutella: relax. It’s not poison in a jar. If you didn’t bother reading the label on what you were feeding your children, that’s your shortcoming. Don’t ruin the chocolatey goodness for the rest of us.

Do you think we need to be protected from Nutella or Baby Einstein? Did you believe their claims or find them misleading?


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

millions2 April 29, 2012 at 1:31 am

As someone who works in the advertising industry, I believe companies have confused the word “consumers” with the word “detectives”.  When they claim something is “healthy” but what they really mean is, it’s healthier than a tub of icecream, the consumer is tasked with figuring out to which extent a product is healthy.

It completely destroys how consumers interpret what product to buy, because we don’t speak a common language with the company producing the product.  If consumers equate healthy to improving our overall health, but the company equates it with replacing the modified corn syrup with organic sugar – then no wonder we suffer from health issues.

It’s a matter of morals, and I personally don’t think consumers should have to put every product label through a lie detector test.


amywlsn April 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

But I don’t believe Nutella ever claimed to be “healthy” in their advertising, did they? Here’s a link to one of their commercials. It’s “delicious,” it’s “easy,” it’s “good on whole grain toast,” it has “natural ingredients.” All of which are true. Maybe we all need to become better educated on what “natural” does and doesn’t mean? http://www.examiner.com/video/nutella-commercial-1


Molliesy03 April 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I know a lot of people who bring a great deal of self-deception to their relationship with Nutella – treating it like peanut butter when they ought to know it’s more like (as you say) Duncan Hines frosting. And I have to admit, my reaction when I see that ad on TV is “I can’t believe they can get away with that!” (Never occurred to me that there was money in it, though.) The ad strikes me as totally sleazy – it doesn’t use the word “healthy,” but it is clearly intended to get moms to file Nutella in the same category as “whole-grain waffles” and oatmeal and omelets — good main-course breakfast options – – instead of in the “occasional treat” category with candy bars and cookies, where it belongs. I also love how they imply that it’s mostly just healthy nuts and milk and, oh yeah, a “hint” of cocoa. Ads for food for kids are almost all horrifying (there are also commercials implying that Frosted Flakes are basically healthier than bean sprouts), and it’s always on the buyer to actually check the label. But yeah, even if the law suit is a bit ridiculous, I’m not sorry to see Nutella publicly shamed for their ads.


Elizabeth April 29, 2012 at 1:56 am

Three MILLION dollars?  Can a jar of Nutella cause this much damage?  
This ridiculous story is right up there with the “McDonald’s- coffee-is-too-hot-one-million-dollar-lawsuit-Lady” and the “My-kids-eat-McGriddles-every-morning-for-breakfast–now-they’re-obese-and-it’s-your-fault-Ronald!-case”. (also awarded around one million dollars)

Seriously, when will this stop? 
I’m all flustered now. I need to go eat a graham cracker smothered in Nutella and watch a Baby Einstein DVD at the same time to calm myself down!!!

Thanks for the story. I’m a pretty new follower to your site…it’s cute. I enjoy coming over here. =)


Sharilbrooks April 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

i think it’s totally ridiculous. They didn’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.  The ingredients are on the label.  It was her responsibility, as a consumer, to read the label….I served Nutella all the time to my kids until I became more educated (ie. simply read the label) and started making a homemade version at home.  I’m not a total freak about natural versus processed, organic versus hormone-induced but, there are simple ways you can take matters in your own hands if you question a product’s nutritional impact.


Kathy at kissing the frog April 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

If I had a dollar for every unhealthy thing I let my kids do or eat, I’d be…well, a millionaire. It’s sad that people get rewarded for being lazy and ignorant. Sure your child would be no smarter if all you did was put him in front of a video, but how about if you watched it with him and talked about it? Sure your kid would be unhealthy on a strict Nutella-only diet. How about adding some other healthy choices with it. I’ve never had Nutella (don’t ban me from your site, Amy), but it sounds like it would be yummy with a banana.

I go back and forth on my thoughts about advertising and marketing. I do think some of it intends to deliberately mislead people or draw the focus on to certain groups of people (like McDonalds ads focusing heavily on minority groups), but then again it’s very clever people doing their job. It’s up to us as consumers and parents to make healthy, informed choices.


Steph at The Healthy Mom April 29, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Nutella is total crap. And I agree that they promote it as a healthy food.  As mothers, we need to look past the stupid claims on the packaging and read the nutritional information for ourselves.  A sugar cube slathered in peanut butter would be a better alternative that Nutella. 

That said, I loved the Baby Einstein videos.  But like you said, I didn’t actually think it would make my kids brilliant.  But I didn’t feel bad about plopping my kids in front of visually stimulating classical music videos. 


amywlsn May 1, 2012 at 1:44 am

I guess I do agree that Nutella’s brand suggests that they are healthier than a candy bar in some way, when it’s not at all. I think it’s part of our Euro-phile nature. Italians use it, it must be wayy superior to what we eat for breakfast right? 


millions2 April 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm

In Canada, they claimed to be nutritious and part of a balanced breakfast. Their website (http://www.nutella.ca/english/nutrients) is full of information on being active, having a balanced breakfast, and tips for healthy living. Which can be misleading because eating nutella for breakfast doesn’t directly contribute to any of those things.

Making a website about healthy lifestyles, and then putting your product beside that information forces the consumer to detect whether those two things are related. And in this case, they’re not.


Tracy April 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

omg!  as someone who has never had nor purchased nutella i would have to say that i did think it was supposed to be healthy.  must have been all that, “good on whole grain toast,” business.  glad to know it isn’t….i will not rush out to get any!  as for the lawsuit….three million for someone who can’t read a label is a tad silly.


Sbaum8 April 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm

It’s more proof stupid is in. Like the little old lady suing McDonald’s for coffee being hot. No shit! Why use common sense when you can blame someone else.
More reason the other countries can say we are a nation of idiots.


Courtney April 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

People are stupid, and stupid people believe stupid things. Sorry. Do your own research. If it says one serving has 24 grams of fat or whatever, you probably should consider it a “treat” and not a staple of your child’s diet.


BabyKMama April 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I live in California,and am frankly embarrassed (and frightened) by many of the lawsuits won for ridiculous claims like this.   Too many people are lazy and greedy, and our judicial system needs to stop reinforcing this kind of behavior


Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom May 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I’m sticking with Vegemite. (Actually, that stuff tastes like salty dirt, but my time in Australia showed me the Aussies love that stuff!)


brandon May 17, 2012 at 12:05 am

its good for you


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