Now that "organic" and "healthy" are equalling cold hard cash for the food industry, food manufacturers are falling over themselves to get a piece of that healthy action. The New York Times reports that major companies like Kraft and General Mills, and retailers like McDonald's and Wal-Mart are are all maneuvering to take advantage of rising interest in organic products.
But one company jumped on that bandwagon early, as this excellent Wall Street Journal article details. Taking a cue from parent company Philip Morris, who realized early on that promoting teen smoking equaled corporate villiany in the eyes of the public, Kraft Foods recently announced they would stop marketing "unhealthy" foods to children under 12. But this admirable concession is slightly underscored by the fact that Kraft also developed their own nutritional guidelines to judge which of their products were healthy and "less" healthy.
Kraft calls this their "Sensible Solution." Health experts outside the company call it "nutritional gerrymandering." So far, five Kraft products qualify under the company's Sensible Solution standards: Sugar-Free Kool-Aid™, two kinds of Capri-Sun™ drinks, Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks™ and 1/2 the Sugar Fruity Pebbles™ cereal.
Here's an example of how Kraft determines nutritional value:
Kraft's Capri-Sun Sport drink has more sugar and calories than the standard that the company set for "refreshment drinks." But Kraft still advertises the product to children. That's because Kraft says the drink has a "clinically proven superior hydration benefit compared to water."
Kraft bases that benefit on a study it funded of 29 children between the ages of nine and 12. The children exercised and on breaks were allowed to take a drink. On average, the kids drank more Capri-Sun Sport than water, according to the study, done by the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Kraft determined its drink had a nutritional benefit because kids drank more Capri-Sun than water.
Tomato, tomahto - but regardless, this solution has been sensible for both consumers, and Kraft Foods. Since announcing the initiative, Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks™ have become the Kraft's fastest growing product line.
So the obvious question is: what's the nutrition value of these healthy Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks™?
I turned to my friend the internet, starting with the Lunchables™ site - a loud flash site inexplicably set in some sort of space treehouse, where you can go on a "Poppin Droppin Adventure with the Lunchables Brigade," but not learn anything about the actual contents of a Lunchable. So what about Kraft's own Sensible Solutions page? There's a link for nutrition information - but alas, when you click it, you find that "Information for all qualifying products will be available soon." How about the Oscar Mayer Lunchables site? They don't even list Chicken Dunks as a product. Online grocers FreshDirect and Peapod don't carry them.
I finally found the information at ediets.
Lunchables Chicken Dunks™
Contents: 5 chicken nuggets, sweetened ketchup, Tropical Punch-flavored Kool-Aid Jammers drink and Starburst Fruit Chews
Fat Grams: 5
Sodium: 520 mg (the sodium content of 3 servings of Doritos™)
Sugar: 34 g (6 grams more than a Snickers™ bar)
Clearly, what the Chicken Dunk loses in fat it more than makes up for in salt and sugar. So, while your children under 12 may not have to worry about clogged arteries anymore, they'll probably still be overweight and hypertensive. Thanks, Kraft Foods!