Friday, June 29, 2007

Kellogg's Froot Loops Cereal Straws and the limits of private voluntary restraint on marketing to children

Earlier this month, we reported on the favorable media that Kellogg won by announcing new guidelines for marketing to children. See, for example, the coverage from WebMD, including high praise from independent health policy folks. Here is the laudatory press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which dropped a lawsuit about marketing to children after Kellogg's announcement.

This week the Consumerist, BoingBoing, and the Impulsive Buy covered the introduction of Kellogg's new Froot Loops Cereal Straws, which sweeten the milk children drink as it passes through the straw, in order to achieve the same effect as the sweetened milk left at the bottom of a bowl of Fruit Loops.

Here are the ingredients and nutrition information for the new product, from the Kellogg website:
Ingredients: WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, VEGETABLE OIL (PALM, SHEANUT, AND COTTONSEED OILS), MALTODEXTRIN, FRUCTOSE, NONFAT MILK, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF GLUCOSE SYRUP, EGGS, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, PGPR (POLYGLYCEROL POLYRICINOLEIC ACID), NATURAL ORANGE, LEMON, LIME AND OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, YELLOW #6, RED #40, YELLOW #5, NIACINAMIDE, BLUE #1, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), TOCOPHEROLS FOR FRESHNESS, RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), SESAME FLOUR, VITAMIN B12, VITAMIN D.
Each serving of three straws provides 140 calories, including 12g of sugar and 3.5g of fat, including 2g of saturated fat (10% of the daily value).

Look at the image and ask yourself if the target audience is parents or if this product is being marketed directly to children. We'll keep an eye on the height of grocery store shelf placement for this product.

I can't criticize the folks who praised the earlier Kellogg announcement. They face difficult decisions in assessing what battles are winnable. But this example does illustrate well the limits of voluntary corporate self-restraint.

[Update 6/30: Corrected spelling from "Fruit Loops" to "Froot Loops." Also, see the observant comment by Kati of preschoolrock, who points out how precisely the clever food scientists walked the limits of the Kellogg agreement in their lab work for this new product.]

5 comments:

Kati said...

This shows how implementing a policy based on nutrients alone to define 'healthy' is the wrong approach. It looks like this product fits the criteria Kelloggs set to allow advertising to kids - "no more than 200 calories, no trans fat, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, no more than 230 milligrams of sodium and no more than 12 grams of sugar." There's little doubt the food scientists were given these standards - funny how the product walks the line of the standards.

Is this food healthy? It's almost 40% table sugar. I don't think we're teaching children a thing about healthy eating because the product contains 'only' 3 teaspoons of sugar.

Stacy said...

The limit is 12 grams of sugar?! That's amazing. If I remember correctly, WIC-eligible cereals have to be 5 grams or less (and it's pretty amazing how quickly the field is narrowed by this limit).

Lisa said...

Last Saturday at the supermarket I spied these on the shelf. I thought "Wow!, these chocolate straws would be great with my iced mocha lattes!" When I got home, my children saw them and said "Wow!,we just saw an ad for those on Saturday morning cartoons!" Nowhere on the packaging could I find anything that suggests that the product is healthy or nutritious. I consider them a cookie, and allow one a day, which is about 45 calories, <1g saturated fat, 4g sugar. We love them, but wish they used a healthier oil.

bagel said...

I bought a box of these for myself. I don't have children.

They're delicious! Kind of like a fruity version of those Italian rolled cookies.

When ya'll are figuring the nutrition, remember that they are encouraging kids to drink milk. Frankly, they aren't very tasty without milk.

Anonymous said...

this cereal tastes so good---my grandchildren enjoys it. do you think you can share with me the machine that makes it into a rolled wafer?i have an asian recipe that is simpler than the cereal straws.your answer would be most appreciated.my email address is melo_1941@hotmail.com
my name is maria mercado and iam from the philippines