Which? finds breakfast cereals are still too high in sugar, but are lower in salt

16th February 2012

Which? has found that the majority of breakfast cereals are too high in sugar* and is once again calling on retailers and manufacturers to provide a wider choice of healthier cereals and label them more clearly.

The consumer champion compared the nutritional content of the top selling breakfast cereals and their own-brand equivalents, and discovered that 32 out of 50 were high in sugar**. Cereals aimed at children were particularly disappointing, with high levels of sugar found in 12 out of 14, meaning that many would be more at home in the chocolate biscuit aisle.

The worst offender was Kellogg’s Frosties, with 37% sugar. Chocolate rice cereal from several supermarkets came a close second, followed by Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Kellogg’s Coco Pops and Sugar Puffs. Cereals marketed as “healthy”, such as Kellogg’s All-Bran Bran Flakes and Special K, were also high in sugar.

Nestlé Shredded Wheat was the healthiest cereal, with low levels of sugar, fat and salt. Quaker Oat So Simple Original and Weetabix were the only other cereals that were low in sugar.

Which? experts were pleased to see reductions in salt across the majority of cereals, with significant cuts in some, including Morrisons Honey Nut Cornflakes, Tesco Special Flakes and Kellogg’s Coco Pops. Just eight cereals failed to meet the salt targets for 2012***.

Which? also found inconsistent nutrition labelling, with different serving sizes between brands, a lack of traffic light labelling and inconsistent ‘per serving’ information.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says:

“It is good news that the salt content of many cereals has been lowered. But Which? research has shown that once again, many top-selling breakfast cereals are too high in sugar. Parents will be particularly surprised by the fact that the majority of children’s cereals contain so much sugar.

“More action is needed by retailers and manufacturers to provide a wider choice of healthier cereals. The Government also needs to encourage manufacturers to take action over sugar levels and provide consistent nutrition labelling that includes traffic light colour coding so it is easy to see exactly what you are buying.”

Katharine Jenner, Nutritionist and Campaign Director of CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health), says:

“It’s great to see manufacturers finally stop putting so much salt in our breakfast cereals, after all, who wants salt in their corn flakes?

“Recently published progress reports, as part of the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal, indicate that cereal companies are well on the way to meeting 2012 salt targets by the end of the year. Given that breakfast cereals are eaten by so many people every day, including children, this is a really positive and important step forward for salt reduction, and therefore our health, in the UK.

“However it is important that these reductions continue beyond the 2012 salt targets, as there are still many popular high salt products available, including Kellogg’s Cornflakes and Nestle Cheerios.  There is no need to have so much salt and sugar in cereals, particularly when there are already many very tasty and nutritious cereals that contain little added salt or sugar.”

“Salt increases our blood pressure at any age, putting us at risk of strokes, heart disease, kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis; we should all be eating less than 6g of salt a day.  This Which? report reminds us to look at the food labels when we’re shopping and to choose lower salt and sugar cereals.  We urge cereal manufacturers to use traffic light labelling on their packaging so shoppers can see at a glance if they are high, medium or low in salt.”

- Ends –

Notes to editors

* Which? researchers compared the nutritional content based on the manufacturers’ information for 50 breakfast cereals. We included the top selling branded cereals and own-brand equivalents for the most popular ones (Kellogg’s Special K, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Kellogg’s Cornflakes) and the best selling children’s cereal (Kellogg’s Coco Pops). Which? also compared these results against its last cereals investigation in 2009. Weetabix is the second most popular but we did not include own-brand equivalents for this as there is so little difference.

** Most popular cereals compared

 

 Per 100g**
Breakfast cereal[1]Salt[2]Calories (kcal)Sugar Fat2012 salt target met? Traffic Light Labelling? 
 
Kelloggs Special K (original)1.15g37917.0g1.5gNNo
The Co-operative Healthier Choice Rice & Wheat Flakes0.80g37513.4g0.8gYYes
Morrisons Trim Flakes0.80g36112.0g1.4gYNo
Tesco Special Flakes0.80g36512.0g1.4gYNo
Aldi Harvest Morn Benefit Original0.75g36712.0g1.4gYNo
Sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself Balance0.73g37615.4g1.3gYYes
Waitrose Special Choice0.73g38214.8g1.3gYYes
Asda Vitality 0.70g38214.8g1.3gYYes
Lidl Crownfield Special Flakes0.70g37810.9g1.0gYNo
       
Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes0.90g40235.0g5.0gYNo
Asda Honey Nut Cornflakes0.80g40233.6g4.5gYYes
The Co-operative Golden Nut Cornflakes0.80g39533.6g4.5gYYes
Waitrose Honey Nut Cornflakes0.75g39733.6g4.5gYNo
Sainsbury's Honey Nut Cornflakes0.74g39733.6g4.5gYYes
Lidl Crownfield Flakers Honey & Peanuts0.70g39420.8g3.9gYNo
Morrisons Honey Nut Cornflakes0.70g39733.6g4.5gYNo
Tesco Honey Nut Cornflakes0.70g40033.6g4.5gYNo
Aldi Harvest Morn Honey Nut Cornflakes0.42g39534.4g3.6gYNo
       
Lidl Crownfield Cornflakes1.70g3768.5g0.8gNNo
Kellogg's Cornflakes1.30g3788.0g0.9gNNo
Marks & Spencer Cornflakes1.25g3708.4g1.0gNYes
Asda Cornflakes1.20g3838.8g1.1gNYes
Tesco Cornflakes1.20g3808.8g1.1gNNo
The Co-operative Cornflakes0.80g3808.9g1.2gYYes
Sainsbury's Cornflakes0.74g3798.9g1.2gYYes
Waitrose Cornflakes0.73g3798.9g1.2gYNo
Morrisons Cornflakes0.70g3798.9g1.2gYNo
Aldi Harvest Morn Cornflakes0.65g3827.8g0.5gYNo
       
The Co-operative Choco Snaps0.80g38536.0g2.9gYYes
Kellogg's Coco Pops*0.75g38735.0g2.5gYNo
Sainsbury's Choco Rice Pops0.74g38636.0g2.9gYYes
Waitrose Choco Pops0.73g38636.0g2.9gYNo
Aldi Harvest Morn Choco Rice0.70g39433.0g2.8gYNo
Asda Choco Snaps0.70g39036.1g2.8gYYes
Morrisons Choco Crackles0.70g38636.0g2.9gYNo
Tesco Choco Snaps0.70g39036.1g2.9gYNo
Lidl Crownfield Choco Rice0.69g37936.0g2.9gYNo
       
Nestlé Cheerios1.24g38121.5g3.8gNNo
Kellogg's Rice Krispies1.15g38310.0g1.0gNNo
Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Flakes1.00g35622.0g2.0gYNo
Kellogg's Frosties0.90g37537.0g0.6gYNo
Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Clusters0.89g44925.0g15.0gYNo
Nestlé Shreddies0.76g37114.9g1.9gYNo
Weetabix0.65g3584.4g2.0gYNo
Alpen Original Muesli0.28g37723.1g[3]5.8gYNo
Weetabix Weetos Chocolatey0.23g39223.5g4.9gYNo
Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious Muesli0.10g35616.8g[4]7.4gYNo
Honey Monster Sugar Puffs0.01g37935.0g1.6gYNo
Nestlé Shredded Wheat0.01g3400.7g2.2gYNo
Quaker Oatso Simple0.01g3641.0g8.5gYNo

[1]50 cereals are based on the 17 best-selling breakfast cereals and own-brand equivalents for the top 3 adult cereals (excluding Weetabix own-brand equivalents) and top selling children’s cereal.
[2] Where salt was not listed per 100g, it has been calculated by multiplying the amount of sodium per 100g by 2.5.
[3] Includes sugar from fruit.
[4] Includes sugar from fruit.

* Cereals highlighted in blue are those that included promotions aimed at children.

** We have compared cereals based on the nutritional value per 100g. This enables us to compare them across the board even if manufacturers recommend different portion sizes. Traffic light colours have been applied to show whether cereals are high, medium or low in fat, sugar or salt. These are based on the criteria set out below developed by the Food Standard Agency.

Traffic light labelling criteria

 

Green (Low)

Amber (Medium)

Red (High)

Sugar

≤ 5.0g/100g

>5.0 to ≤ 12.5g/100g

>12.5g per 100g

Salt

≤ 0.3g/100g

>0.3 to ≤ 1.5g/100g

>1.5g/100g

Fat

≤ 3.0g/100g

>3.0 to ≤ 20.0g/100g

>20.0g/100g

*** Manufacturers have taken steps to reduce salt in breakfast cereals by reformulating their products to meet salt targets. Just eight of the 50 breakfast cereals Which? analysed were not meeting the 2012 target of a maximum of 1.1g salt per 100g breakfast cereal (Asda, Lidl, Kellogg’s, Marks and Spencer and Tesco Cornflakes, Nestlé Cheerios and Kellogg’s Special K and Rice Krispies).