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May 3, 2004


Deceptive Foods ++

(This post has been greatly expanded from the original.)

Remember when South Central LA decided that it would fix all its problems of urban blight, poverty, crime, and hopelessness by just changing the name? Well, now Kentucky Fried Chicken is following suit. They first changed their name and branding to "KFC." Last year they tried to market fried chicken as health food. Now they've suggested that KFC actually stands for something else: "kitchen fresh chicken." Admittedly, that name sounds a whole lot less artery-clogging without the word "fried," but what does this mean for other food companies? Can they all start just changing their names to imply that the food they produce has somehow improved, without any actual changes being made?

The most glaring related example of this is, of course, the recent downgrading of yogurt from a "meal" to a "snack" that both Dannon and Stonyfield have bought into. They reduced their yogurt cup size from 8 oz. to 6 oz., leaving many customers outraged. Emily may have more to add on this, given that she has launched a personal crusade against the participating yogurt companies. Note that Colombo is now advertising its yogurt as "8 oz. since 1929" (see bottom of page.) -Amy

Well, the real question is, what does the "KFC = Kitchen Fresh Chicken" formula mean for all of NYC's second-tier fried chicken mini-chains whose name-wars are built into the landscape of the city, particularly in the Bronx.

Most New Yorkers have driven past the tasty-by-association (and legally sound) "Kennedy Fried Chicken," but may have missed its progeny: the brilliantly dubbed (and also legally unassailable) "JFK Chicken," a name which at once recalls Kennedy Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken's rebirth as KFC, and -- let's face it -- JFK himself. After the advent of JFK, and proving once again that nothing succeeds like success, "Canada Fried Chicken" also surfaced, which someone must have figured sounded close enough, and which of course spawned "US Fried Chicken" and "American Fried Chicken." Only Crown Fried Chicken, perhaps the largest of the outer-borough chains, has steered clear of this mental-association game and is reputed to have the tastiest chicken of them all.

So does this mean that "Kennedy Fresh Chicken" is available? By asserting that KFC now stands for "Kitchen Fresh Chicken," will KFC ironically lose its claim to its original moniker, "Kentucky Fried Chicken"? Wow: This could lead to the kind of onomastic battle not seen since the days of Ray's Pizza vs. Famous Original Ray's Pizza vs. Ray Bari Pizza -ADM

It's no coincidence that both Dannon and Stonyfield Farm reduced their cup size around the same time; both are owned by the French company Groupe Danone. Although Stonyfield�s party line is that they are just some humble cow-owning folk from the backwoods of New Hampshire, the company has taken an alarming turn since Groupe Danone�s acquisition in 2003.

In my ongoing quest to expose Big Yogurt, I've uncovered some serious examples of corporate deception:

1) You Asked for Less, You Got Less �In an independent research survey on Trends in Yogurt Consumption, 73% of all yogurt eaters viewed yogurt as a snack rather than a meal,� Stonyfield PR cheerily announces. �So in addition to the colorful graphics change, we reduced the size of our fat free cups to a 6oz. size that's more appropriate for snacking.

People, please. It seems disingenuous, at best, to suggest that these �snacking� consumers are pushing back from their desks, groaning �I�m so full! And now I have to throw away these two leftover ounces��*

Dannon resorts to the more Orwellian �room in every cup for your favorite mix-ins� on the back of the already 6-ounce container, encouraging the consumer to �create your own yogurt experience!�

2) More Money, Less Yogurt Worried about paying the same amount for less yogurt? Don�t worry, because �all of the ingredient savings from the size reduction have been passed on in our new pricing. Though the actual product size was reduced by 25%, most stores will price the new size at a 15%-20% decrease.�

Well, unless you buy your yogurt in the Greater New York metro area, where you will actually pay exactly as much as before.

I contacted Stonyfield Farm via email about these issues, mentioning that, as a former New Hampshire resident, I wanted to support a local company producing a quality product. 6 ounces, I said, is not a sufficient snack size and leaves me hungry and unsatisfied. Furthermore, I noted, none of my local retailers seemed to be passing along this price savings to me.

I received an email along the lines of the website explanation, and a week later, some coupons came in the mail. How far will those two free yogurts get me? Assuming I buy 6 yogurts a week at $1 each, those two coupons will exactly cover the 12 phantom ounces I�m paying for on my next trip to the Key Food. But what happens after that?

Despite all of this, I still buy Stonyfield Farm yogurt. Why? It tastes good, and I honestly do want to support a company that began as a local, environmentally sound business.

What these corporate changes are really saying to me is that healthy food just isn�t that profitable. For the most part, Americans don�t give a crap about their health � they just want to lose weight. Subway jumped right on that � first with Jared�s astonishing weight loss, and now with their line of low carb sandwiches.

You don�t need to look further than Stonyfield�s introduction of eXtreme!!!!!! flavors such as Screamin' Strawberry & BaNilla Blast to realize that Big Yogurt is in trouble. But is the solution to nickel and dime the consumers that choose to support them?

*They probably will have to throw it away, because in an effort to save the environment from the dire threat of plastic yogurt lids, Stonyfield Farm also now only covers their 6 oz containers with foil. You can request extra lids from their headquarters, but they won�t send you more than 2 or 3 at a time. Trust me, I�ve tried. -Emily

categories: Business, Health, Media, NYC
posted by amy at 2:56 PM | #