Kellogg to change marketing approach to children

by Eric Schroeder
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BATTLE CREEK, MICH. — The Kellogg Co. today announced it will change the way it markets its products to children and add front-of-pack nutrition labeling, moves the company said illustrate its commitment to meeting consumers’ health and nutrition needs.

The company said it will use a new internal standard, the Kellogg Global Nutrient Criteria, to determine which products to market to children on television, print, radio and Internet, as well as to determine how to market the products. The criteria were based on a broad review of scientific reports and experts, Kellogg said.

According to Kellogg, foods will not be promoted in media outlets to children under the age of 12 unless a single serving of the product meets the following standards:

• no more than 200 calories

• no trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat

• no more than 230 milligrams of sodium, except for Eggo frozen waffles

• no more than 12 grams of sugar, not counting sugar from fruit, dairy and vegetables.

"The initiatives we’re announcing today set a new standard of responsibility and are consistent with our 100-plus year heritage, further strengthening our commitment to helping consumers make informed food choices," said David Mackay, president and chief executive officer, Kellogg. "Around the world, Kellogg continues to play an active role in helping consumers successfully manage both sides of the calories in/calories out equation through product choices, in nutrition education, community programs and partnerships promoting the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity."

Currently, about half of Kellogg products marketed to children worldwide do not meet the Nutrient Criteria, the company said, including a third of the ready-to-eat cereals it markets to children in the United States. But with the new initiatives in place, Kellogg said those products will either be reformulated to meet the Nutrient Criteria or will no longer be marketed to children under the age of 12 by the end of 2008.

"Today, only 27% of Kellogg advertising spending in the U.S. is directed to children under 12 and we’ve always approached that communication responsibly," Mr. Mackay said. "We’re taking these steps to address increasing concerns about marketing to children and further strengthen our commitment to responsible marketing. In addition, we plan to increasingly emphasize products with enhanced nutritional value as well as continuing to find ways to emphasize nutrition and healthy lifestyles in our marketing to children."

While restricting its marketing to children under the age of 12, Kellogg also said it would refrain from advertising to children under the age of 6; will not use branded toys connected to any foods that do not meet the nutrition standards; and will not use licensed characters on mass-media advertisements directed primarily to children under 12 or on the front labels of food packages unless they meet the standards. The agreement does not apply to marketing characters Kellogg owns, such as Tony the Tiger, but it does apply to characters the company licenses, such as Shrek.

Kellogg’s decision to alter its marketing practice to children follows a similar course of action at Kraft Foods Inc. and Walt Disney Co. In 2005, Kraft said it would stop advertising products to children that did not meet specific nutrition guidelines. This past October, Disney followed suit by saying it would allow use of its name and characters only on child-focused products that meet specific guidelines, including limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar.

The new initiatives at Kellogg were welcomed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, two groups that in January 2006 had announced their intent to sue Kellogg for "marketing junk food to young children." With the announcement, the groups have withdrawn their lawsuit.

"By committing to these nutrition standards and marketing reforms, Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry," said Michael F. Jacobsen, executive director of the C.S.P.I. "As a practical matter, this commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices—especially if other food manufacturers and broadcasters follow Kellogg’s lead."

In addition to its change in marketing practices to children, Kellogg said it will implement front-of-pack nutrition labeling in the form of Guideline Daily Amounts (G.D.A.s) on the front of ready-to-eat cereal packages in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In the United States, new packaging will feature an easy-to-use labeling system on the top, right-hand corner of cereal boxes, identifying percentages of calories, total fat, sodium and grams of sugar per serving. The labels also will identify fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. The percentages are based on a typical 2,000-calorie daily diet.

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