NORTHFIELD, IL: Kraft Foods grabbed the PR high ground in the public debate about obesity and America's unhealthy eating habits by announcing a series of planned changes in how it will make and market its products.
The changes include increased communications with various groups interested in the obesity issue, as well as proactive efforts to encourage improved child fitness and nutrition.
Kraft's efforts put pressure on other food and restaurant companies to become more active in discussing obesity and what they can do to help America kick its bad eating habits, industry PR experts agreed.
Gene Grabowski, VP of communications with the Grocery Manufacturers of America, said, "I think you can expect to see more of this because the market is asking for it."
Contrary to what critics charge, Grabowski said food companies are working on healthier products, and are telling consumers to eat healthily.
Even some former Kraft foes gave the company credit for its announcement last week.
"Some of the steps they're taking are good steps," said Patti Lynn, campaign director with INFACT, a group that boycotted Kraft because of its ownership by Altria (formerly Philip Morris).
She added, though, that she and others concerned about obesity will be watching to see if Kraft follows through on its pledges (such as the elimination of all in-school marketing), and that the company doesn't find other, more subtle ways to market to children instead.
Among the PR and marketing steps Kraft promised last Tuesday are creating guidelines for all advertising and marketing practices - including marketing to children - to encourage good eating habits and active lifestyles.
Guidelines would also be created for the use of health-related claims worldwide.
Kraft has also pledged to push for policies to encourage schools and local communities to improve fitness and nutrition, and to increase dialogue on the obesity issue to help Kraft with ongoing responses.