Kenco think we are all stupid- 'unsweetened' coffee contains almost 40% sugar

16 October 2012

kenco2You are all (fairly) normal people aren't you? What does “unsweetened” mean to you? Without sugar? Without sweeteners? Without sweetness?

According to the online version of the OED, it means “(of food or drink) without sugar or a similar substance having been added.” Which is fairly simple and more or less self-explanatory. However, if you are Kenco Coffee, unsweetened means something entirely different. We are just not sure quite what.

We were contacted by a number of avid and disgruntled Bitterwallet readers, including the lovely Paolo, who had purchased Kenco Cappuccino coffee. The unsweetened version. You can imagine their surprise when the first listed ingredient (remembering that ingredients are listed in size order) was glucose syrup. The second highest ingredient was lactose, a milk sugar. And even though “unsweetened” means “without sugar”, sugar itself is listed as one of the ingredients further down the list. In fact, the nutritional information table tells us that the unsweetened cappuccino coffee is actually 37% sugar.

kenco 1

We were confused. We thought this was probably misleading. We checked the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which clearly state, under regulation 5 (misleading actions) that “a commercial practice is a misleading action if it… contains false information and is therefore untruthful … or if it or its overall presentation in any way deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer in relation to any of the matters in that paragraph, even if the information is factually correct; and… it causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise.”

The regulation goes on to suggest areas in which false information might be presented, which includes “the main characteristics of the product”, specifically the “benefits of the product” and the “composition of the product” among other things. We feel, therefore, that the Office of Fair Trading ought to clamp down on this shocking misrepresentation of the word “unsweetened”.

We did contact Kraft (who own Kenco) to ask them how they might define a product that was almost 1 part sugar to 2.5 parts anything else as unsweetened, but they were unable to come up with an answer.

So shall we report them? What do you think?

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice   Supermarket


  • shiftynifty
    And bigger fish are coming down the track
  • Spencer
    thing is... there's a difference between something unsweetened and sugar free. they are not claiming the product has no sugar, nor are they claiming that the product is low in sugar or sweeteners. what they are claiming is the product has no additional sugar or sweeteners beyond the composition of the normal recipe. as it happens the recipe contains a few different carbohydrates which are sugars, but they are part of the recipe and haven't been added to sweeten the drink so they cannot call it sugar free. but as they've added no additional sweetening agents... they're grammaticaly correct by calling it unsweetened.
  • Spencer
    it's like a cup of tea... if you put milk in it... you're adding lactose which is a type of sugar. so even though there's no sweetener or sweetness or anything other than tea water and milk.... is it unsweetened? yes. is it sugar free? no it would follow that if you then add additional sweeteners or sugars to sweeten the tea... you can no longer call it unsweetened.
  • Spencer
    unsweetened doesn't mean sugar free for 2 reasons... 1. not all sugars are sweet. you can add sugar without sweetening. and 2. not all sweeteners are sugars. some long chain polyols are used as sweeteners and they're closer chemically to alcohol than anything else.
  • Boring B.
    Shut up you fucking idiot Spencer. You are just a fucking moron. Go and take your stupid ill-informed comments and shove them up your arse. Then re-read the article and give yourself a massive facepalm for being so completely fucking stupid. Twat.
  • Spencer
    I've never known anyone to get so offensive and angry over unsweetened coffee... I genuinely feel a bit bad for finding it funny.
  • Avon B.
    @ Spencer If you can get drunk on long-chain polyols, I'm in. If you can't, I'm with Boring Boy. (not really; he's a dick)
  • Al
    If you look at the product packaging, it doesn't just say 'unsweetened' it says 'unsweetened taste' - it tastes unsweetened not that it doesn't contain sweeteners. So I guess the only misleading thing here is the website.
  • Tim B.
    If ingredients are listed in size order, how come Instant Coffee (10%) is listed before Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder (13%)?
  • Zeddy
    I still prefer mellow birds.
  • Mr T.
    This websites reporting standards are on par with the Daily Mail! All the 'reports' I read on BitterWallet or DealSpawn are absolute crap. It's like they have been researched by a complete numpty.
  • shiftynifty
    So all you fatties....stop drinking kenco
  • deceived
    No one is saying ANYTHING about sugar free - the point is that Kenco have been deceptive in their description. I'm the average consumer so this describes my position quite well - "...a commercial practice is a misleading action... if it or its overall presentation in any way deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer..."
  • spencer
    My little girl is diabetic, and we've almost been caught out with it before. You see 'unsweetened' - your natural assumption is 'sugar free' but it is most definitely not, and it is a common mistake to make. Unsweetened means, exactly that - nothing has been added to sweeten it - it could be rammed full of carbs and sugar and all sorts - but if nothing has been added to intentionally sweeten the taste - it's unsweetened - despite how much sugar is in the recipe. You could say a fruit smoothie is 'unsweetened' - you've added nothing to sweeten it. doesnt mean it aint sweet or full of fruit sugars like fructose. and @Avon Barksdale - some 'sugars' and sweeteners are not digestible by the body. They're called sugar alcohols. Chemically, they're very similar to the alcohol group. If there's any chemicals in the ingredients that ends with 'tol' then it's likely a sugar alcohol sweetener like sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol etc... And you dont get drunk on them sadly... you just get the shits. really really bad shits.
  • Chris
    @Spencer Indeed, my dad's diabetic and it's frustrating to no end that there are no sugar free cappucino mixes, they're all incredibly high in sugar. It's annoying as most coffee chains now do diabetic friendly options (he loves the sugar free caramel syrup they do). As for the Smoothies... they all use apple or grape juice now to sweeten them. I'd rather them just add sugar than make my "banana and strawberry" smoothie contain 60% grape juice, it's incredibly irritating as to me, the grape taste overpowers the other fruits.
  • leeisgod
    Bet this story is on watchdog in the next couple of weeks
  • Mike M.
    where is the option to vote for foxes.
  • Joe
    Also not especially good for people like me who follow a low-carb diet. Or, as above, diabetics. Lactose is understandable - it's just part of milk, so for it to be included with something with milk powder in it is to be expected. However glucose is used for very little other than sweetening, so... Either way I wouldn't buy this sort of piss anyway, it tastes like shit. If I want a cappuccino I'll either go to Costa if I'm lazy, Greggs if I'm lazy and can't be arsed to wait in Costa or use my espresso machine to make one, all of which are infinitely better tasting than shitty instant cappuccino.
  • Avon B.
    @ Spencer. That's fine. I'm off to buy a couple of tubes of Coolmints. I'll let you know how I get on.
  • Spencer
    please keep us updated. as for diabetics... as well as having to make sure my littlun is fed properly, I've been prediabetic myself but dropped a Shit load of weight and I follow a low carb diet... so I'm used to reading labels and have a pretty good insight now. it's worth taking a little while to actually read and understand what goes into our food. there's benefit to it I feel.
  • Spencer
    seriously though Avon.... you will get really bad shits
  • JonB
    Kraft are likely to get slammed hard by the class action suits being filed against "Big Food" in the US at the moment. You won't see me crying over that.
  • Avon B.
    Coolmints give you the shits. Quite bad, actually.
  • sanity
    article is rubbish unsweetened is clearly different to sugar free do you buy unsweetened milk or sugar free milk.... or just milk? sweetness is a measure of flavour not of sugar level its not the advertising thats wrong its societies general understanding of a simple concept that is wrong if you have a medical condition you should be checking labels anyway or at least be better informed from the start
  • Jim J.
    "Posted by spencer • October 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm My little girl is diabetic, and we’ve almost been caught out with it before." Why are you giving your little girl cappuccino FFS ????
  • Spencer
    ^ perfect Jeremy Kyle episode title ^ 'daddy's trying to kill me with coffee'
  • Kevin
    If you have dietary needs and you're not checking the nutritional information on the back of the packs you are the only one responsible.

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.

Your comment