Waitrose suffers first ad ban over 'outdoor-bred pigs' claim

Waitrose has been reprimanded for two of its TV ads and a press ad, which misled consumers into believing that pigs reared for its pork and bacon lived an outside life.

Waitrose ad : outdoor bred claim was misleading says ASA
Waitrose ad : outdoor bred claim was misleading says ASA

The adjudication marks the first time that the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against Waitrose’s consumer advertising, although this summer, a complaint was upheld against a public information leaflet the brand had issued about plans to build a supermarket.

Four people complained about the TV ads, both of which featured celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal talking to farmers about livestock. All the ads were created by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy (MCBD).

In the first, Blumenthal appears outdoors with the pigs from the farm and says "In my opinion, some of the best-tasting pork comes from British pigs that have been outdoor bred, just like these porkers from Norfolk".

Blumenthal discusses the pigs with the farmer, asking him what it is about "outdoor-bred pigs that makes the meat taste so good?" The farmer replies "I think it’s got to be the environment they’re living in – plenty of fresh air, cereal-based diet and, of course, a comfortable bed."

In the second TV ad, Blumenthal is again outside with a farmer. This time he says "Waitrose Essential pork comes from pigs that are outdoor bred. Happy pigs do make for great tasting pork". The farmer responds "I couldn't agree more".

One person complained about the press ad, which was headlined "This week try Heston's tip for perfect pork," and included the claim that "All Essential Waitrose pork and bacon comes from British outdoor bred pigs".

Complainants argued that the ads misleadingly implied that Waitrose pork came from pigs that spent the duration of their lives outdoors, whereas in reality they were reared indoors in confined conditions.

Waitrose countered that the ads stipulated that the pigs were "outdoor bred", arguing that it was a standard term that had become widely used and that consumers would be able to differentiate its meaning from "outdoor reared".

The supermarket said that the pigs were born in fields and were kept there during weaning, before being moved into light and airy sheds with straw.

The supermarket refuted the complainants' claim that livestock was reared in "confined conditions". Waitrose pointed out that all of its pig farmers worked to the standards set by the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme, adding that it had won awards for the high level of its pork and bacon animal welfare standards.

The ASA acknowledged that while "outdoor bred" was a term widely understood in the farming industry, the average viewer "was unlikely to be aware of its particular meaning".

The body noted that the first TV ad showed pigs lying on straw indoors, as well as roaming outside, and that the farmer said the pigs' meat tasted good because of "the environment they're living in – plenty of fresh air… and of course a comfortable bed".

The ASA ruled that the scene was likely to be interpreted as suggesting that, although the pigs slept inside, they lived outdoors for the duration of their lives.

All complaints were upheld and the ASA told Waitrose that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

The body, in its ruling, said: "We told Waitrose to ensure future marketing communications were not misleading."

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