CPG brands join forces on 'Healthy Weight' campaign

WASHINGTON: Several CPG brands have banded together for a $20 million initiative to curb obesity, the latest in a slew of campaigns that center on the nation's ongoing debate on how best to curb unhealthy eating habits.

WASHINGTON, DC:  Several CPG brands have banded together for a $20 million initiative to curb obesity, the latest in a slew of campaigns that center on the nation's ongoing debate on how best to curb unhealthy eating habits.

PepsiCo, Sara Lee Corp., General Mills, and Kraft are among the 40 companies, retailers, and NGOs to join a coalition to launch the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The Foundation has set a goal of reducing obesity by 2015. In its messaging, the coalition will encourage people to be active to balance their caloric intake. It will focus on schools, the workplace, and the marketplace.   

“A lot of our members are fierce competitors so the marketplace is driving a lot this,” said Lisa Gable, executive director for the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.

The foundation launched October 5 and the CMOs of many of the companies involved will meet later this month to develop the marketing strategy for the public education campaign, called “Eat Well, Play Hard, Burn Energy.” It is slated to launch in January. Participating companies have also agreed to make their products or packaging healthier and the nutritional information more user-friendly.

There will also be an advertising campaign and social media outreach, both aimed at children. Initially, the effort will be rolled out in pilot markets like Iowa. Gable declined to name the other pilot regions. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a healthcare focused organization, will conduct an analysis of the changes that the member companies make and determine their effectiveness. 

Gable said the campaign has been in the works for more than 18 months and only coincidentally launched now as more scrutiny falls on manufacturers, and health industry leadership advocates for legislative changes like a soda tax. In a separate campaign launching this week, for example, a food-industry-backed advocacy group is producing a $1 million marketing campaign to improve the image of high-fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in soft drinks.

Dave DeCecco, director of the PepsiCo media bureau, said even though the food giant taken on obesity by introducing products like Sobe Lifewater's zero-calorie flavors this year, the company believes working with competitors, like The Coca-Cola Company, would be more effective.

“Because this is being independently audited and its a collective effort, really sets it apart from other things out there," DeCecco said. "A lot of people might critique this industry marketing but these factors shows that it's serious."

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