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CPG companies, first lady agree healthy is the new norm

4 min read

Food Retail

Michelle Obama delivers keynote address at PHA Summit(Photo: Associated Press)

Since the Obama administration entered the White House, first lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal mission to improve the health of America’s children by teaching them the importance of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Her Let’s Move campaign and non-profit group Partnership for a Healthier America have been working towards this goal for five years, and have started to turn the tide on America’s childhood obesity problem and the way food and beverage companies market to the country’s youngest consumers.

“Over the past five years we have truly changed the culture around health and living in this country,” Obama said in a keynote speech last week at the Partnership for a Healthy America Summit. “Food companies are racing like never before to create healthier versions of their products. Even convenience stores are selling fruits and vegetables. Head to the local drive-thru and kids’ meals might include apples and skim milk. Hit the aisles of the nearest Wal-Mart and you’ll find new healthy labels on your products.”

The first lady said these healthy changes are “the new norm,” and praised food and beverage companies for cutting 6.3 trillion calories from the nation’s diet by reformulating recipes and package sizes. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation was behind the calorie-cutting effort. The coalition comprises 16 of the world’s largest food companies, including General Mills, Campbell Soup, Kraft Foods, Kellogg, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi said the company committed to reducing the salt, sugar and fat in its products, as well as offering smaller, portion-controlled packages.

“I think manufacturers and retailers have demonstrated that we want to be part of the solution. We are part of the solution,” Nooyi said during a session at the PHA Summit.

Even though PepsiCo and many of the other companies in the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation are now very vocal about their calorie-cutting efforts, there was little fanfare when it came to rolling out the new, healthier products. Despite rising consumer demand for healthier choices, taste is still the deciding factor for what most Americans put in their cart.

“[Consumers] don’t like us advertising health, so we have to sneak health into our products,” Nooyi said. The company did not advertise the changes to its products, such as reduced sodium or a change to healthier frying oil for potato chips.

Nooyi said the company is investing in its more health-focused brands, such a Quaker oats, and looking at ways to “shift advertising dollars toward the good-for-you products.”

PepsiCo isn’t alone in shifting marketing focus toward healthier products, a move that could be aimed at competing with the growing adverting push from some non-traditional snack foods — fruits and vegetables.

“If folks are going to pour money into marketing unhealthy foods, then let’s fight back with ads for healthy foods,” Obama said, referencing the FNV marketing campaign that launched during the summit.

“FNV was inspired by big consumer brands, whose tactics are relentless, compelling, catchy and drive an emotional connection with their products,” PHA CEO Lawrence Soler said in a new release. “We want to do the same thing for fruits and veggies, which have never had an opportunity to act like a big brand. Until now.”

The fruit-and-vegetable brand debuted with a video starring celebrities including actor Jessica Alba and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talking about their favorites fruits and vegetables. The brand’s founding partners include Campbell Soup Company’s Bolthouse Farms, Alba’s The Honest Company and Avocados from Mexico, which earlier this year took a big step toward bringing health-focused food marketing into the mainstream by being the first company to air an ad for produce during the Superbowl.


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