Consumer Watchdog Group Wants Kraft Heinz To Stop Disparaging Healthy Foods in Ads

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

A US consumer advocacy group has filed a complaint against food and beverage giant The Kraft Heinz Company (NYSE:  KHC) for disparaging fruits and vegetables in a series of print and television ads that depicted kids turning their noses up at healthy foods.

On Wednesday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said it filed the complaint with the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Better Business Bureau, an industry-funded self-regulatory body, alleging the advertisements flouted established standards. 

Specifically, Kraft Heinz violated a guideline that prohibits “the disparagement of heathy foods in advertising directed towards children” with a campaign for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, CSPI said.

One of those ads, in which “a caregiver tries to encourage a child to have ‘one more bite’ of vegetables, while the child runs away yelling ‘no,’” was “repeatedly aired during children’s programming on Disney XD, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network in 2019,” CSPI said. 

In a print ad for Kraft shredded cheese, part of the same campaign, the company encouraged use of its product to make broccoli taste “less broccoli-ey,” CSPI said.

CSPI noted that another Kraft Heinz brand, Ore-Ida, takes a similar approach, saying, “Disparagement of healthy foods continues to be a theme in the company’s advertising.”

The Ore-Ida campaign from 2018, it said, “encourages caregivers to bribe their children with French fries in order to get them to eat healthy foods” and features a commercial that “shows a child pushing away a plate of broccoli, calling it ‘disgusting.’” 

Video source: YouTube, Ore Ida Potatoes

In a statement Sara Ribakove, CSPI senior policy associate, said, “Disparagement of healthy foods in advertising reinforces children’s beliefs that healthy foods do not taste good and should be avoided. Reinforcement of this belief in childhood can lead to negative beliefs about certain foods and poor eating habits later in life.”

The advocacy group urged the BBB to review Kraft Heinz’s advertising practices even as it acknowledged the Chicago-based company was planning to discontinue the campaigns later this year. 

Lynne Galia, a Kraft Heinz spokesperson, told The Hill, "As a founding member of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Kraft Heinz supported the effort to establish industry standards, publicly pledged to follow parameters around marketing to kids, and remain committed to the responsible advertising outlined in the initiative."

"The two ads referenced were specifically aimed at parents, not kids, and there are no plans to air either ad beyond 2021 as we continue to evolve our brand campaigns. As done previously, we will continue to assess advertising efforts through the lens of upholding our CFBAI pledge and Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) compliance," Galia said.

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