Sainsbury’s “feed your family for GBP50” (US$79.37) marketing campaign has been banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog because the meal plans were more expensive than advertised and failed to provide enough calories.  

The campaign, which ran on TV, online and in print, provided a range of seven-day meal plans that Sainsbury’s said would allow consumers to feed a family of four three nutritionally balanced meals a day for GBP50 per week.  

The Advertising Standards Agency launched an investigation into the campaign after it received seven consumer complaints that the menu did not provide sufficient calories and that additional food would have to be purchased. In addition, the menu was unsuitable for children under four, but advertising showed children of that age group, complaints suggested. 

Sainsbury’s has rebuffed these accusations, insisting that only a “handful” of ingredients would have to come from store cupboards and defending the nutritional profile of the meal plans. 

“Our ‘Feed your Family for £50’ campaign has been very popular and resonated with customers who clearly understood that a small handful of ingredients in the meal plans would have to come from their store cupboards.  We worked closely with independent experts and still believe that our meal plans provide nutritious and tasty family meals in a cost effective way,” a spokesperson told just-food. 

While the meal plans only offered 15% of the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult – 2,000 calories – Sainsbury’s maintained that the remainder would come from snacking. The UK Department of Health states that 80% of calories come from meals and 20% from snacks.

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However, the ASA ruled that although the meal plans had been constructed responsibly, the claim that a family could meet all its calorie needs for a week was misleading.

It also rejected the idea that consumers would necessarily have “store cupboard” ingredients at home already. 

“The percentage of people who had each of those ingredients at home varied considerably and was, for some of the ingredients, quite low,” the ASA concluded. “We consequently understood that a significant number of consumers would have to buy additional ingredients … and concluded that, on this point, the claim was misleading.”

Likewise, the ASA upheld complaints over the promotion being unsuitable for children under four. The watchdog found the campaign was misleading in this respect because customers with young children would have to alter the meal plans and buy additional ingredients.