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How to Keep Kids (and Your Brand) Healthy

Donna SuttonDonna Sutton

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Pending legislation may restrict the types of food that can be marketed to children. Supporters of the proposed guidelines seek to alleviate an all-time high level of childhood obesity, but others fear the policy will eliminate too many jobs.

It may be awhile before a decision is reached due to the requirement of a cost-benefit analysis. The cause-effect relationship between advertising and childhood obesity is also being debated.

Nevertheless, children’s health is a prime concern. In the meantime, how can the CPG industry show support for minimizing the obesity crisis while upholding their brands?

Over the past few years, some manufacturers have voluntarily altered their product’s ingredient composition. For example, General Mills vowed to lower sugar levels in all cereals marketed to children, which now contain 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. The company also increased the use of whole grain in kid-friendly Big G cereals.

Other retailers and manufacturers are supporting healthier options in schools, as the nutrition of cafeteria food has long been scrutinized. Produce providers Dole, Chiquita, and Sun World have recently donated salad bars to schools to offer children fresher alternatives to standard cafeteria menus.

Whole Foods Markets (a sponsor of the Let’s Move Salad Bars 2 Schools initiative) and Publix have also made donations, in hopes that children’s act of choosing from an assortment will turn fruit and vegetable consumption into a habit.     

Dole’s Nutrition Institute even created a school curriculum, including lesson plans, music, games and activity books focused on forming healthy eating habits.

Other possible strategies manufacturers can employ to support children’s healthy eating may include:

  • Introducing healthier, kid-friendly brand extensions (Sara Lee disguised whole grains in whole wheat white bread)
  • Reducing size and calorie count of lunchbox-friendly packs (Nabisco introduced 100 calorie packs for portion control)
  • Increasing marketing efforts to promote existing healthy product lines to children (Last year, farmers borrowed the traditional junk food marketing approach to brand baby carrots as “the original orange doodle”)

What are some strategies your brand is using to combat childhood obesity?

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4 Responses for "How to Keep Kids (and Your Brand) Healthy"

  1. Michelle O'Neil January 4th, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    The discussion on this issue can go on and on! As a mom, I understand the importance of wanting to fight the obesity epidemic and keep our kids healthy. It’s scary to think that pre-teens are already being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. At the same time I understand that it is not always so easy to get children to eat healthier when “convenience” food can be so appealing. It’s important to take the lead at home and provide a good example to children while at the same time being able to demonstrate that all can be good in moderation. Additionally, I think it’s important to continue to place an emphasis on physical activity as opposed to trying to fight diet alone. Perhaps in addition to employing healthy-eating strategies, a combined effort can be made for encouraging physical activity and “play”.

  2. Laura-Lynn Freck January 4th, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    CPG Manfacturers would do well to consider product innovation centered on health in lines geared towards kids. However, as the previous commenter noted, sometime convenience is the trump card when choosing food for kids. Therefore, in addition to healthy kid-centric products, CPG Manufactuers need to consider tailoring messaging to the “Mom’s” around ease of preperation and “quick to the table.”

    Another issue related to this one is the concern with food deserts. I live in an urban area where there is a big prpoblem with a lack of fresh products available in some of the dicier parts of town. Retailers are unwilling to open stores because of the crime potential. This means that whole generations of urban children are unable to have access to the healthier brands we are discussing. Maybe there is an opportunity for Retailers and CPG Manufacturers alike to look into how they provide children in the food deserts with the same innvations.

  3. Donna Sutton January 5th, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Great thoughts on the physical aspects of controlling obesity, however, getting kids to comply (or time-constrained parents to encourage or participate) is challenging. The time-constrained household is key here – as it relates to the topic in general I believe – the convenience factor as well. This is where we just have to take a step back and “make time” – as families, as parents – in the home first, whether it’s to encourage the physical activity (play, exercise), and eating habits.

    That said, to your points and Laura Lynn’s points, the food that is “available” needs to be better, as well as “convenient”, it needs to be healthy too. Good for our systems, our minds and bodies. Things like GMO’s, allergens, over-processing, fresh/raw, organics, things that are ‘better-for-you’, and accessible, and affordable.

    That’s where it will “hit home” and be helpful to the “family” in the long run. That’s what we need. In every home, every neighborhood to help with obesity and overall health. In my opinion.

  4. Karyn Taylor February 13th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Great article/blog. I tend to agree with Michelle in regards to ‘taking the lead at home and setting an example’. I’m pushed for time during the week and it’s very appealing to grab a box of something high in fat and/or sugar to prepare yet, we a bit of pre-planning alternatives are available. These items may be marketed toward children but the bottom line is parents are buying it.

    I think it’s a great step that Whole Foods, Dole and other manufacturers are making donations to schools for lunches/salad bars. Some focus has to go to the schools to follow through and provide healthy alternatives and not succumb to budget or ignorance. (See Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution).

    Good steps ARE being taken but it all comes back to setting examples for our families and staying involved.