In the midst of rabid news coverage of America's obesity epidemic last year, Kraft rolled out an initiative to improve the health profile of its offerings by, among other things, capping portions for single-serve packaged snacks. Now, however, rather than limiting servings per package, the company will keep larger bags and boxes in circulation and provide nutritional information for the entire package rather than just for an individual serving. In addition, Kraft will offer a variety of portion-controlled snacks.
Frankly, Kraft's change in tactics is not surprising. Many consumers would probably be surprised by how little they would eat if all of their munchies were limited to a single serving. In addition, the labeling change lends some credibility to the company's claims that it is working to help folks make informed choices.
Still, such nutritional data will likely continue to confuse most consumers. For the time being, it is probably best for the company to focus more on improving formulations and adding healthier items to its portfolio. Kraft has already made progress in this area, as reflected in its purchase of Veryfine juices and its reduction of fat content in 200 products in North America.
But, over the long run, it may pay to be bolder. In an era when films such as Super Size Me and frivolous anti-obesity lawsuits grab headlines, protecting a corporate image has to be a top priority. One possible step Kraft could take is to aggressively promote healthier foods using traditional snack brands. Granted, an Oreo buyer might not seem like someone who would be interested in soy Boca Burgers, but stranger things have happened. A blurb on an Oreo package promoting Boca probably would not hurt either brand, and at the very least, the firm could claim it is working to get people to eat healthier. With the obesity issue still making news and its performance in the doldrums of late, Kraft may want to start thinking outside the box.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here, but he has been known to consume both Oreos and Boca Burgers.