Supermarket breakfast products marketed as nutritious on-the-go options contain more sugar and are up to 18 times more expensive than one serving of two Weetbix and milk, according to new research.
In a study conducted by public health group LiveLighter, 65 individually packaged items sold at Woolworths, Coles and Aldi were surveyed, with some revealing 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per serve.
LiveLighter expressed particular concern about heavily marketed breakfast biscuits, many of which were found to offer little more nutrition than a standard sweet biscuit.
“Breakfast biscuits are basically just sweet biscuits, but with a higher price tag and a healthy halo. They’re highly processed and some were more than 25 per cent sugar, very little of which is naturally occurring from fruit or milk,” said LiveLighter dietitian Sian Armstrong.
LiveLighter analysed packaged products sold in supermarkets in Melbourne in July this year, targeting those which featured words like “morning” or “start the day” on the packaging.
Among the worst on-the-go options identified by LiveLighter were belVita Breakfast Biscuits in the chocolate, honey and nut with choc chips and yoghurt crunch flavours.
All belVita biscuits are marketed as “specially designed for breakfast” and a ‘”convenient way to include quality wholegrains as part a delicious breakfast.”
However, LiveLighter found they contained between one and 1.5 teaspoons more sugar than a bowl of two Weetbix and milk.
Mondelez, the manufacturer of belVita biscuits, said the product was a “convenient breakfast food…[to] be consumed as part of a balanced breakfast.”
LiveLighter campaign manager Alison McAleese said manufacturers often tailored nutritional marketing by highlighting fat-free claims, despite the product having a high sugar count.
“My favourite was a product of two biscuits glued together with yoghurt … and the packaged advertised it as having ‘active cultures’. But that biscuit was also really high in sugar, due to the dehydrated yoghurt.”
The research also highlighted 500ml Sanitarium Up & Go drinks in the choc ice, banana and vanilla ice flavours, which were marketed with the words “liquid breakfast.”
LiveLighter found all contained 9.5 teaspoons of sugar, compared with a bowl of milk and four Weetbix, which contained four teaspoons.
This is despite the product being marketed as having the same “protein, energy and fibre of four Weetbix and a cup of milk.”
All three Up & Go flavours contained between 38 and 38.3 grams of sugar and cost $4 per serve, compared with a bowl of Weetbix which cost 24 cents per serve.
Sanitarium was unable to comment on the research. However, it is understood the manufacturer evaluates its products on the percentage of energy contributed by sugar to a person’s total diet.
LiveLighter is using the research to call on manufacturers to limit the promotion of high sugar products as nutritious breakfast snacks.
“Many breakfast [products] appear healthy and are promoted with phrases like ‘rich in cereals’…and as having ‘the energy and fibre of two Weet-Bix and milk’ on the label,” Ms McAleese said.
“This is not the full story, especially when you consider that some of these products have an extra four teaspoons of sugar than a bowl of wheat biscuits and milk.”
She said consumers were often paying more “just to see the word ‘breakfast’ on the box.”
Not all the products surveyed by LiveLighter were deemed poor health choices.
Evia Pods yoghurt and Vaalia kids breakfast yoghurt were both found to have an equal amount of sugar to a bowl of Weetbix and milk.
Chobani yoghurt with steel oats and ancient grains was also deemed a healthier on-the-go option.
A Kellogg’s spokesman said it was surprising the campaign had assessed its Pop Tarts, as the product was not “marketed as a breakfast product.”
He pointed to Kellogg’s Baked Muesli Breakfast Biscuits, which were among the 65 products surveyed, and include “less than 10 grams of sugar per serve.”