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Responding to increasing pressure placed on food marketers to offer more healthful choices for children in light of what health professionals call an obesity epidemic, Kraft announced a shift in its roughly $800 million advertising budget toward "better for you" products it will begin in April to label as Sensible Solutions.
Rolling out new ad campaign
The products that qualify for the new label, among them Sugar-Free Kool-Aid and Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks along with others that provide essential nutrients or reduced sugars, calories or fat, will be the new focus of TV, print and radio ad buys targeting children ages 6 to 11. Existing ads for Kraft's less nutritious products, including regular Kool-Aid, certain Lunchables varieties and Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, will no longer be carried during programming targeting that age group, much of which is cartoons on national broadcast and cable networks, like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
Kraft already has had a policy in place to eschew advertising in media targeting children younger than 6.
Level of advertising won't diminish
Lance Friedmann, senior vice president for global health and wellness at Kraft, said the media shift expected to be completed next year is not expected to diminish the levels at which Kraft advertises to the 6- to 11-year-old set.
"We expect the overall levels of advertising to this audience to be about the same, because as we implement this program we are focused on developing new products that meet the [Sensible Solutions] standards," Mr. Friedmann said. He pointed to the launch in February of advertising touting a half-sugar version of Fruity Pebbles, which will replace existing creative for the regular Pebbles variety, he said.
Although much of the new-product activity will be focused on developing similarly healthier versions of existing products, Mr. Friedmann said Kraft intends to launch some new brands as well in what he calls a "steady stream" of better-for-you products.
Vocal health-advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, which last week announced a sweeping set of guidelines for advertising to children it hopes marketers will adapt, applauded Kraft's efforts but still demanded more, including extending the new guidelines to on-pack cartoon characters and "advergames" on the Internet.
The ad industry trade group American Association of Advertising Agencies also applauded Kraft's actions, saying the marketer's voluntary decision to refocus its ad dollars is preferable to any government regulation.
Though Mr. Friedmann said Kraft's efforts will focus mainly on TV, because "our research has shown that's what consumers are most concerned about," Kraft early this year will partner with Nickelodeon to discourage overeating and boost wellness on labels of its licensed products. New "Nicktrition" labels on products such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and Nabisco Fruit Snacks featuring Blues Clues characters will have more detailed nutrition information and tips on exercising and eating right.
Halting in-school marketing
Kraft has in some ways already responded to the increasing nutrition trends, putting the bulk of its media spending for its Lunchables line in 2003 and 2004 against a better-for-you Fun Fuels lineup and eliminating all in-school marketing last year.
PepsiCo has similarly announced initiatives that cater to the demand for healthier products, among them putting a "Smart Spot" label on its healthier products and working to develop school vending machines featuring its more nutritious offerings from brands including Quaker and Aquafina. Other companies are likewise developing new nutrition standards for products that are most likely going to be featured more prominently when reaching out to children.
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Ira Teinowitz contributed to this report.