Oatly green claims spark red mist at the ad watchdog

oatlyBusinesses facing increasing pressure to big up their green credentials have had a shot over the bows following a new ban on a major campaign by Swedish vegan milk brand Oatly, which has been branded misleading.

The Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation into the campaign after receiving 109 complaints from members of the public and the campaign group A Greener World that claims made in the activity were balderdash.

Developed by Oatly’s in-house creative team, the first TV ad featured a father sneaking cows’ milk into the house, only for his son to find him. The second shows a conversation between two young people, one of whom was struggling to convince his dad to give up cows’ milk.

Both ads carried the claim that Oatly “generates 73% less CO2e v milk, calculated from grower to grocer”, while a press ad claimed “climate experts say cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact”.

Meanwhile, in paid-for ads on Twitter and Facebook, Oatly claimed the “dairy and meat industries emit more CO2 than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc, combined”.

In response to the ASA investigation, Oatly UK said the products were chosen for the calculations because it wanted to showcase its Barista Edition product, and whole cow’s milk was the most comparable dairy product to this because of the fat content, taste profile and suitability for speciality coffee drinks.

But the ASA ruled the ads had breached ​​the UK Code because consumers would assume that all Oatly drinks would produce 73% less CO2e compared with types of cows’ milk, when there was evidence to support only the one comparison.

Meanwhile, both the press ad and social media posts were also ruled to be misleading due to rogue calculations, with the ASA demanding the firm must not repeat these claims again.

An Oatly spokesman said: “It’s clear that we could have been more specific in the way we described some of the scientific data. For example, we made a claim stating that ‘Oatly generates 73% less CO2e VS cows milk’. We should have been more specific and said: ‘Oatly Barista Edition oat drink generates 73% less CO2e vs. whole milk, calculated from grower to grocer’.

“We’re a science-based company and take pride in being precise, but we could have been clearer. We talk about these things a lot, because we want to make it easy for people to make an informed switch from dairy to oat drink.”

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