Branded cereal favourites can contain TWICE as much sugar as supermarket own versions

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Family favourite cereals can be nearly 28 times saltier and twice as sugary as supermarket own-brand versions, analysis shows.

MailOnline compared the nutritional content of 10 of the biggest brands of cereals and their alternative options available at Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and ALDI.

Among the worst offenders was a serving of Kellogg’s Krave chocolate and hazelnut cereal, which was found to contain 0.28g of salt. For comparison, Tesco’s own version of the product contained less than 0.01g. 

Meanwhile, Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut chocolate clusters were packed full of 9.3of sugar per serving, compared to the 4.9g in ASDA’s option.

Both of the options are at least half the price of the branded version. 

However, some cheaper options contained just as much salt or sugar — with ALDI’s take on Krave containing 0.29g of salt. 

Nutritionists have long argued that lower salt and sugar versions of products prove that foods can be made in a healthier way. 

Britons are advised to eat no more than 30g of added sugar and 6g of salt each day. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and tooth decay, while a salt-heavy diet can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

The findings come amid a national obesity crisis, which worsened during the pandemic. One in three children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave school, while three-quarters of over-45s are too big. 

The NHS spends more than £6billion per year treating obesity-related health problems and the cost is set to rocket to £9.7billion by 2050. 

Sonia Pombo, of Action on Salt, told MailOnline that some of the branded companies are ‘grossly irresponsible’ for making food with ‘unnecessarily high’ salt and sugar levels.

Food manufacturers have access to the same ingredients and all know sugar and salt harm health, so it is baffling that they ‘actively choose not to’ follow healthier recipes, she said. 

MailOnline compared the nutritional content of 10 of the UK's favourite branded cereals with comparable products available at Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and ALDI. The graphic shows the nutritional content per 30g bowl of each cereal, or per two biscuits for Weetabix. Supermarket versions had healthier salt and sugar levels across almost all cereals. Among the worst offenders, Kellogg's Krave chocolate and hazelnut cereal had 28-times more salt than Tesco's version of the breakfast food, while Kellogg's Crunchy Nut chocolate clusters contained nearly double the sugar per 30g serving compared to ASDA's option

MailOnline compared the nutritional content of 10 of the UK’s favourite branded cereals with comparable products available at Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and ALDI. The graphic shows the nutritional content per 30g bowl of each cereal, or per two biscuits for Weetabix. Supermarket versions had healthier salt and sugar levels across almost all cereals. Among the worst offenders, Kellogg’s Krave chocolate and hazelnut cereal had 28-times more salt than Tesco’s version of the breakfast food, while Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut chocolate clusters contained nearly double the sugar per 30g serving compared to ASDA’s option

MailOnline analysed 10 cereals made by Kellogg’s, Nestle, Jordans and Weetabix and compared the sugar and salt content per 30g serving to the supermarket own-brand versions.

Kellogg’s Frosties were found to contain more salt (0.25g) and sugar (11g) than all of the supermarket alternatives. 

The same was also found for Nestle’s Multigrain Cheerios (0.25g salt and 5.3g sugar) and Nestle Cookie Crisp Cereal (0.2g salt and 7g sugar).

But the opposite was true for Weetabix (0.1g salt and 1.6g sugar), with all of the supermarket options having slightly more sugar (0.1g salt and 1.7g sugar). 

And Kellogg’s Coco Pops was one of the least sugary versions, containing 5.1g per serving, compared to 8.8g in the version from Waitrose.

HOW MUCH SUGAR SHOULD I EAT? 

Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.

The type of sugars most adults and children in the UK eat too much of are “free sugars”, which includes any added to food and drink and sugars in honey, syrup and fruit juice.

But sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables do not count as free sugars.

Adults are not supposed to have more than 30g of free sugars a day – around seven sugar cubes. 

Children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars (six sugar cubes), while those aged four to six should not have more than 19g (five sugar cubs). 

Eating too much sugar can mean consuming too many calories, leading to weight gain. 

Being overweight increases the risk of suffering heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Sugar is also one of the main causes of tooth decay.

Health chiefs advise Britons to have no more than a 150ml glass of fruit juice and smoothies per day and limit the amount of foods with high levels of free sugars.

Source: NHS 

Calorie content across the different cereals were almost identical per 30g serving, despite disparities in the sugar and salt content.

Ms Pombo told MailOnline: ‘These findings highlight how grossly irresponsible certain branded companies are, producing foods which are unnecessarily high in sugars and salt.

‘All manufacturers have the same ingredients available to them and know that sugar and salt are harmful to our health. 

‘The fact that other companies can produce healthier versions of the same food proves that it can be done, so why do they actively choose not to?

‘With one in three children leaving primary school with overweight or obesity, and the overall cost of obesity to wider society estimated at £27billion, our Government must step up and enforce mandated salt, sugar and calorie reduction targets now to ensure a level playing field across all relevant food categories.’

Dr Haya Al Khatib, a nutrition scientist and visiting research fellow at King’s College London, told MailOnline the findings are ‘a great example of why we need to move beyond fixating on calories’. 

She said: ‘The nutritional value of a food is far more complex than only its caloric value and we need to move beyond equating foods based only on the amount of energy the label on the back of the pack says they provide when we’re choosing what to eat. 

‘The effects of the calories different foods provide us can have vastly different effects on our biology, our long term health, and even how we feel throughout the day.

‘As far as possible, we need to focus on bringing a variety of whole plant foods onto our plate.’ 

Professor Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, told MailOnline the differences in sugar content could mean Britons are eating a quarter of their daily sugar allowance at breakfast.

He noted that the sugar content in Frosties is almost double the level of Tesco and ASDA’s own versions of the product.

And the product equates to five per cent of daily calorie intake and includes ‘about 25 per cent of the daily sugar allowance for an adult’, Professor Kuhnle warned.

A spokesperson from Kellogg’s said its recipes are different from own-brand products and where some of its cereals could be ‘slightly higher in salt’ it may also be ‘much lower in sugar’ and fortified with vitamins and minerals. 

They added: ‘Although seemingly similar, they are different recipes which, in many cases, are also made in different ways. They are not necessarily comparable.

HOW MUCH SALT SHOULD I EAT? 

Eating too much salt can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Adults should eat a maximum of 6g of salt per day.

Between 75 and 80 per cent of the salt people eat is in processed and convenience foods, such as sauces and meat. 

For every gram of salt cut from Britons’ average daily intake, there would be 6,000 fewer deaths from strokes and heart attacks per year. 

Most labels now give the amount of salt contained in food per portion.

Foods are considered to be low salt and have a green label if they contain less than 0.3g per 100g. 

Products with medium salt levels have less than 1.5g per 100g, which is indicated through an amber label. 

And products with high amounts of salt have a red label, meaning they contain 1.5g per 100g or 1.8g per portion.

‘Many of our cereals, including Coco Pops, Special K Original, Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes are classed as non-high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) using the government’s own nutrition standards.’

A Nestlé spokesperson said it has removed 59million teaspoons of sugar and 3million teaspoons of salt from its products over the last decade, so nine in 10 of its products are not high in fat, salt or sugar. 

The company reduces sugar and salt content and increases the whole grain content regularly, they said. 

‘Both Multigrain Cheerios and Cookie Crisp are classified as non-high in fat, sugar and salt (non-HFSS) and have “amber” on pack labelling according to the UK Government’s Nutrient profiling model,’ they added. 

A Jordans spokesperson said its strawberry cereal would not be considered as high-sugar by regulators and it’s important ‘not to focus on one single nutrient’ when assessing food. 

They said: ‘Country Crisp cereal is made with wholegrain oats and is lower in saturated fats than some of the other products on the market. Since 2009 we have reduced the sugar in our cereals by 14 per cent and have launched a low sugar granola.’

Official figures show more than a third of adults in England are overweight and more than a quarter are obese.

And one in seven youngsters are obese by the time they start reception, compared to one in 10 before Covid struck.

And by the time they are in Year 6, the proportion who are obese jumps to one in four, up from one in five in 2019. 

The Prime Minister announced a crackdown on obesity in 2020 after a near-fatal bout of Covid which he attributed to being overweight. 

As part of the plan, new laws restricting offers on foods high in fat, sugar and salt are due to come into effect in medium and large shops in October. Junk food giants will also be banned from advertising online and before 9pm on TV by January 2023.

No10 is also planning to end ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions for unhealthy food and stop the products from being placed in prominent locations in shops, such as entrances and checkouts. 

And a rule came into effect last week requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 staff to list calories on their menus.

And through the NHS, Britons can now get access to apps as well as free or discounted membership to gyms and programmes such as Weight Watchers to help them shed weight.

But there are concerns Mr Johnson may dilute or drop some of these plans to appease Tory MPs who oppose nanny-state interventions.  

Branded cereal favourites can contain TWICE as much sugar and 28-times more salt then supermarket own-branded versions 
Cereal (nutritional information per 30g serving or per two biscuits for Weetabix) calories sugar (g) salt (g) cost per box
Kellogg’s Frosties 500g 113 11 0.25 £3.30
Tesco’s Frosted Flakes 500g 116 6.7 0.14 £1.00
ASDA Frosted Flakes Cereal 500g 116 6.7 0.14 £1.00
Sainsbury’s Frosted Flakes Cereal 500g 119 8.1 0.21 £1.00
ALDI Harvest Morn Frosted Flakes 600g 116 7.8 0.14 £0.99
Kellog’s Rice Krispies 510g 116 2.4 0.3 £2.90
Tesco’s Rice Snaps 375g 116 1.5 0.16 £0.65
ASDA Rice Snaps 375g 116 1.5 0.16 £0.90
Sainsbury’s Rice Pops 375g 116 2.1 0.16 £1.00
Waitrose Essential Rice Pops 440g 115 2.7 0.22 £1.40
ALDI Harvest Morn Crisp Rice 375g 115 1.8 0.21 £0.65
Nestle’s Multigrain Cheerios 390g 115 5.3 0.25 £2.70
Tesco’s Multigrain Hoops 375g 114 4.8 0.1 £1.10
ASDA Multigrain Hoops 500g 113 5.1 0.17 £1.40
Sainsbury’s Multigrain Hoops Cereal 375g 115 4.7 0.13 £1.10
Waitrose Essential Multigrain Hoops 375g 115 4.7 0.13 £1.10
ALDI Harvest Morn Multi Grain Hoops 375g 109 5.1 0.15 £0.85
Kellog’s Coco Pops 480g 115 5.1 0.2 £3.00
Tesco Choco Snaps 375g 115 6.4 0.2 £0.75
ASDA Choco Snaps 605g 115 5 0.16 £1.54
Sainsbury’s Choco Rice Pops 375g 118 8.4 0.2 £1.00
Waitrose Essential Choco Pops 375g 118 8.8 0.2 £1.10
ALDI Harvest Morn Choco Rice 375g 114 8.2 0.23 £0.75
Weetabix 48 pack 136 1.6 0.1 £5.00
Wheat Biscuits 48 pack 136 1.7 0.1 £2.25
ASDA Wheat Bisks Cereal 48 pack 134 1.7 0.1 £2.40
Sainsbury’s Wholewheat Biscuits Cereal 48 pack 134 1.7 0.1 £2.75
Waitrose Essential Wholewheat Biscuits 24 pack 134 1.7 0.1 £1.85
ALDI Harvest Morn Wheat Bisks 36 pack 134 1.7 0.1 £1.69
Jordans Country Crisp & Strawberry 500g 130 6.2 0.01 £3.00
Tesco Strawberry Crisp 500g 129 4.8 0.03 £1.50
ASDA Strawberry Crisp Cereal 500g 128 4.35 0.01 £1.34
Waitrose Mixed Berry Crisp 500g 131 4.14 0.01 £2.50
ALDI Harvest Morn Crisp Cereal Strawberry 500g 131 5.4 0.01 £1.15
Kellog’s Special K 500g 118 4.5 0.3 £3.00
Tesco Low Fat Special Flake Cereal 500g 112 3.7 0.2 £1.30
ASDA Special Flakes Cereal 500g 112 3.7 0.16 £1.00
Waitrose LOVELife Toasted Rice & Wheat Flakes 500g 112 3.7 0.16 £2.00
ALDI Harvest Morn Original Benefit 500g 114 4.6 0.06 £0.95
Nestle Cookie Crisp Cereal 500g 118 7 0.2 £2.20
Tesco Crunchy Cookie Cereal 325g 116 6.5 0.1 £1.45
ALDI Harvest Morn Cookie Bites 565g 116 6.5 0.1 £1.25
Kellogg’s Krave Chocolate & Hazelnut Cereal 410g 135 8.7 0.28 £2.50
Tesco Pillows Chocolate Nut Cereal 375g 127 5.2 0.01 £1.20
Sainsbury’s Choco Hazelnut Squares Cereal 375g 134 5.9 0.11 £1.20
ALDI Harvest Morn Craze Cereal 375g 125 6.97 0.29 £0.99
Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Chocolate Clusters 450g 138 9.3 0.25 £2.50
Tesco Honey Nut Chocolate Clusters 500g 131 6.8 0.01 £1.70
ASDA Honey Nut Crunch with Milk Chocolate Curls 375g 133 4.9 0.2 £1.25
ALDI Harvest Morn Honey Nut Crunchy Corn Flakes 500g 138 7.4 0.25 £0.85

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