Nutrition bars ‘that would not be out of place at cricket tea’ ruled as cakes

Nutritional bars that would “absolutely not look out of place” at a cricket or sporting tea have been ruled to be cakes in a tax tribunal hearing that exempts them from VAT.

Judge Amanda Brown ruled in favour of manufacturer Pulsin after sampling the bars made of dates, cashews and brown rice bran alongside Mr Kipling’s French Fancies, Victoria sponge cake and Tunnock’s Tea Cakes.

The Raw Choc Brownies come in variations called Maca Bliss, Almond and Raisin, Superberry and Peanut Choc Chip and are free of refined sugars.

Judge Brown dismissed Pulsin’s claims that they were “not sweet enough” to be considered confectionery but said this did not exclude them from being cakes.

The ingredients used in making the brownies, the manufacturing method, their taste and texture were all “consistent with those of a cake”, she said.

The dispute began in 2016 when Pulsin said that it had wrongly been paying VAT on the products for four years.

The tax authorities insisted that they were not cakes but confectionery.

Judge Brown said in her ruling: “The world moves on constantly, eating habits change. Fewer and fewer people sit down to meals and many more eat on the go with the consequence that an individually portioned cake may be eaten as a snack, with a packed lunch or as a dessert.

“With the rise in obesity the public look for cakes different in nature to those of the 1970s.”

She added: “Put alongside a slice of traditional Victoria sponge, a French Fancy and a vanilla slice or chocolate eclair, the products may look out of place.

“However, put alongside a plate of brownies, or, for instance, at a cricket or sporting tea where it is more likely that bought and individually wrapped cakes will be served on a plate, the products would absolutely not stand out as unusual.”

On balance, the judge ruled that the brownies “do show enough characteristics of cakes” to qualify for the zero rating.

Judge Brown referred to the 1991 Jaffa Cakes case when McVitie’s successfully argued that the product was not a biscuit but a cake.

A tribunal determined that certain characteristics of the Jaffa Cake were cake-like, including the ingredients and texture, but it was also the size and shape of a biscuit, packaged and sold alongside biscuits and presented to be eaten with the fingers and not, as might be expected of a cake, eaten with a fork.

The product was nevertheless determined to be a cake.

Simon Ashburner, the managing director and co-founder of Pulsin, said: “To be able to compete on a level playing field is a huge victory for us.

“There is a very good opportunity, now that there is a recognised obesity crisis, to review food VAT law to help people make healthy choices.”

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