Alliance Faults Marketers For Fruity Packaging

A coalition of nutrition and physical activity advocates is calling on food marketers such as General Mills, Kraft, Quaker Oats and Nestle to remove what it calls "misleading images and statements from packaging," stop advertising highly sweetened foods and beverages to children, and reformulate food and beverages to "significantly decrease added sweeteners and increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains."

The Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, based in California, last week issued a report titled "Where's the Fruit?," in which it said more than half of the most aggressively advertised children's foods that feature fruit prominently on their packaging contain no fruit at all. Another 16% contain minimal amounts of fruit despite fruit promotion on the packaging, the report found.

Among the cereals with no fruit cited are General Mills' Fruity Cheerios, Trix, and Berry Berry Kix; Kraft Foods' Post Fruity Pebbles; Kellogg's Froot Loops and Quaker Oats' Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries.



The study also cited products that do contain the fruit promised by the package, including General Mills' Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and Berry Burst Cheerios, Kellogg's Apple Jacks, Eggo Waffles and strawberry Pop Tarts, Quaker's Chewy 90-Calorie Granola Bars (baked apple); and Smucker's strawberry jam. But the fruit is in the form of fruit puree or fruit from concentrate, the study said. Another 6% were 100% fruit juice; "however, fruit juice does not contain the equivalent fiber, vitamins and minerals of whole fruit."

A Kraft spokesperson said it is common practice to use fruit or a descriptive phrase to represent the fruit flavor within. "We say right on the front, to the right of the brand name--which is prime positioning--that [Fruity Pebbles] contain artificial fruit flavors." The product is part of Kraft's "Sensible Solutions" based on its other nutrients, she said. "We do our best to make sure our customers have useful information on our packaging."

General Mills and Kellogg declined to comment. A call to Quaker was not returned.

Yoplait Go-Gurt Yogurt (strawberry splash), produced by General Mills, also was cited for having no fruit despite its packaging. It was "one of the biggest surprises," said Leslie Mikkelsen, a registered dietician with the Strategic Alliance and lead author of the study. "Yogurt is regarded by most people as being healthy, and one would naturally expect Strawberry Splash-flavored yogurt to contain strawberries, particularly when it is a food product advertised directly to children."

Dannon's Danimals XL also came under fire. A spokesperson for Dannon said the product had been reformulated recently, and is now known as Danimals Extreme. A photo of an eight-pack of Strawberry Explosion Flavored Smoothie still clearly shows strawberries and kiwis, but the new product contains no high-fructose corn syrup and fruit juice instead of "less than 1% of strawberry puree, fructose and kiwi puree."

"It is not the image of fruit, but actual fruit that is healthy for children," the study said. "The packaging of these products reminds people of fruit and its nutritional value without delivering the benefits."

The alliance also called on the federal government to do more to protect consumers by updating its regulations to ensure that packaging clearly states fruit content on the cover, and by requiring that added dietary sugars be included on the nutrition facts panel "so they can better understand how much sweetener is in these products." A phone call to the Food and Drug Administration was unreturned.

"Food and beverage companies are some of the most sophisticated communicators in the world and are clearly capable of accurately reflecting what is in their products if they wanted to," said Mikkelsen.

The Strategic Alliance has prepared "Setting the Bar: Actions to Improve Food and Beverage Offerings" to guide food companies in their marketing ethics.

Food marketers such as Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg, and others made a commitment in November to make changes in the way they market to children. Those plans are due this summer. None of the avowed alterations includes packaging.

Next story loading loading..