The latest news causing a justified kerfuffle in the world of cheese, parents, nutritionists—okay, just about everybody—is that Kraft Singles will soon be putting Kids Eat Right logos on their processed cheese product. Soon, regular and 2 percent Singles will display the logo, about 95 percent of the Singles brand.
What is Kids Eat Right? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a trade group that represents 75,000 nutritionists and dietitians, runs a nutritional education program called Kids Eat Right that strives “to mobilize our members to participate in community and school childhood obesity prevention efforts, and also to educate families, communities, and policy makers about the importance of quality nutrition.” The academy’s website offers all sorts of articles and tips on healthful eating and good fitness habits.
So putting a logo of this national nutritional campaign on a food would seem to be an endorsement of that food’s nutritional value, right? Well, not necessarily…
The Academy lays it down a more than a little differently: executive director Mary Beth Whalen told The New York Times that “the Kids Eat Right logo on Kraft Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter of Kids Eat Right. It also serves to drive broader visibility to KidsEatRight.org, a trusted educational resource for consumers.” Huh?
An official statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics gets a little more explicit and fine-print-ese: “Contrary to recent published reports, this collaboration does not constitute any endorsement or nutritional seal of approval by the Academy, its Foundation or Kids Eat Right. The Academy Foundation does not endorse any products, brands or services. The Kids Eat Right logo on KRAFT Singles packaging identifies the brand as a proud supporter of Kids Eat Right.”
That’s right—all the logo notes is that Kraft supports the program, not that it abides by its principles or sells a product that fits its guidelines outside of, “If it’s made out of milk, it must be good for you!” Since this logo technically says nothing aside from Kraft-thinks-this-Kids-Eat-Right-program-is-a-good-idea, what then is the point of such cross-branding? The statement continues, “This collaboration aligns with the purpose of Kids Eat Right to provide nutrition information and resources, both directly to the public and through registered dietitian nutritionists who work with schools and communities to improve kids’ healthy eating and lifestyle practices.”
But Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, didn’t you just say that this logo, in fact, doesn’t include any nutritional information at all, that it is just a badge of quote-unquote “support?” Oh wait, excuse me: you said it only “aligns” with your mission to educate the public! Of course! Hahahaha!
Kraft, naturally, is pretty happy with the situation. Kraft’s director of nutrition, science, and regulatory affairs (and a member of the Academy to boot), Kari Ryan, explains how the folks at Kraft “saw the synergies in taking our mission and the mission of the academy and making them into one to drive education and awareness around the nutrient needs of children and how to address them.” While automatically disqualifying herself with the use of the word “synergies,” Ryan does have something of a point: Kraft has masterfully synergized (ugh) all of the benefits of an ad campaign promoting the health benefits of their product without actually doing anything to make their products healthful.
With the advantages to Kraft crystal clear, that leaves us with some questions for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: What’s it to them? How much did this “alignment” cost Kraft? How big are the pools filled with cash that the Academy is just swimming in à la Scrooge McDuck right now?