What’s the difference between fruit snacks and candy? Not much! As far as I’m concerned, fruit snacks represent a lot of what’s wrong with the food industry. Although nothing is illegal about what the manufacturers are doing, their actions are irresponsible and misleading.
The fruit snack manufacturer’s playbook is pretty simple and typical of many kid brands. It goes like this:
- License iconic brands and movie equities to build kid appeal
- Advertise the product frequently with commercials that drive home kid fun
- Provide a “nod” to nutrition or health
Let’s look at each of these aspects of kid marketing a little closer.
1. License iconic brands and movie equities to build kid appeal:
From Disney to Nickelodeon to the latest movies, there is always an abundant supply of animated brand icons for categories like fruit snacks to tap into. This is probably the most popular technique used in marketing to kids. And with equities like Handy Manny and Disney Princesses, it’s clear that these snack are targeting very young kids. In this example, Kellogg’s has paid to license Disney’s Toy Story, to give the snack immediate appeal and kid “cred”.
2. Advertise the product frequently with commercials that drive home kid fun:
Kid targeted advertising and promotions are another method of drawing in kid interest and appeal, especially when there is no licensed equity like Disney to feature. Kid advertising is all about being silly, irreverent, cool, and fun. Check out this example below of a popular fruit snack brand, Gushers.
3. Provide a “nod” to nutrition or health:
With snacks like Lays© potato chips and Cheetos© dominating the landscape, parents are looking for an alternative. It’s doubtful that candy would be seen as a healthy alternative to salty snacks, but when you’re a packaged foods marketer, that doesn’t matter. Enter Fruit Snacks, a category born in 1980’s, these nutritionally empty sweets masquerade as a healthy snack. But as the old saying goes, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. Here are some quick nutrition facts (for the full nutrition information, click here):
Although it should be noted that some fruit snacks add minor amounts of apple puree concentrate and are fortified with Vitamin C, the net result is no different: Fruit Snacks are glorified candy. In fact, some fruit snacks have even more calories per gram than gummi candy. Regardless, some processed food company advocates defend fruit snacks and say they are not marketed as healthy snacks. Let’s take a closer look at the packaging burst on Kellogg’s Disney lineup:
With claims like “made with real fruit”, “100% DV Vitamin C”, “Fat Free”, and “80 Calories”, it sure sounds like Kellogg’s is trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
So what can we do? Food manufacturers have proven they have no interest in advocating healthy, balanced diets. Should we create legislation to help protect everyday consumers? Possible alternatives include:
- Enact food labeling laws that would create clear, color-coded nutrition guidance system on the front-panel (see my post entitled “Here We Go Again …” for more information on this)
- Enact a tax on junk food and sugary beverages. Funds could be use to improve nutrition education in schools and fund healthier school lunches
- Restrict advertising to products that meet stringent health criteria (low fat, low salt, low calories, high nutrition). The House of Representatives is debating legislation right now that would enact voluntary limits on advertising, but the food industry is vigorously fighting any regulation despite these rules being called “a model for how self-regulation can work.”
What do you think? Can food companies be trusted to improve their act? Or do we need to enact real regulation that will limit the abuses of the food industry? Share your opinion and get the conversation started.