brand strategy

In Vermont, Unilever Fights—and Ben & Jerry's Funds—Anti-GMO Activism

Posted by Dale Buss on June 16, 2014 01:51 PM

Ben & Jerry’s may be taking hits from fans over recent recipe changes, but the original foodie ice-cream brand is sticking with its progressive DNA and eliminating some 110 sources of ingredients that contain GMOs. The move echoes the ambitions of the brand's home state, Vermont, which recently became the first US state to mandate GMO labeling.

The move by Ben & Jerry’s also puts the Unilever-owned brand in interesting opposition to the expressed stand of its global parent company, which along with other members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in the US is suing Vermont over the new law.

But this is the kind of cultural tension that Unilever signed up for when it acquired Ben & Jerry’s from founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield for $326 million in 2000. At the time, Unilever promised a hands-off policy concerning Ben & Jerry’s social consciousness, and by all accounts the acquiring company has basically complied with that promise over the years.

But the GMO issue is a new kind of test on the unique relationship. Ben & Jerry’s revealed last year that it planned to eliminate all GMO ingredients from its products, and has since become a major supporter of the new Vermont law that is being challenged in court by major CPG brands under the GMA umbrella. In fact, activists have called for a boycott on all GMA members' products—of which Ben & Jerry's is included.Continue reading...

health fallout

Faced with Labeling Legislation, CPGs Struggle to Brand Non-GMOs

Posted by Dale Buss on June 4, 2014 06:02 PM

Non-GMO products may be to CPGs what EVs are to the auto industry: Mainstream consumers still just aren’t sure whether or why they should need them.

Mandatory GMO labeling proponents continue to chalk up victories in the US, especially in the Northeast. Vermont became the first state to mandate such labeling, which will take effect in 2016 and for the first time would align a US jurisdiction with more than 60 other countries that require labeling of genetically-modified food organisms.

Meanwhile, according to The Huffington Post, more than two dozen other states are considering mandatory labeling of such GMO foods, though some states are knowingly waiting out their peers before they make a move themselves. Supporters of GMO labeling legislation gathered at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Wednesday to announce they had the backing of a majority of state lawmakers; and such a bill is reported to be inching closer to consideration by the New York legislature.

But there are some major obstacles standing in the way. For one thing, so far, while a devoted cadre of activists are highly concerned about GMO content in the American food supply, most Americans still pay the issue little heed. One reason, a new study suggested , is that non-GMO labeling on retail products is inconsistent and confusing.Continue reading...

health matters

Four Years Later, FLOTUS' Let's Move Turns Focus to Food Marketing in Schools

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 26, 2014 03:11 PM

In celebration of the fourth anniversary of her Let's Move movement, First Lady Michelle Obama is pressing forward on her ambitions to curb junk food marketing to kids. In an announcement with US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Obama introduced a proposal to ban advertising of sodas and unhealthy snacks in public schools. 

"Our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food," Obama said at a White House event, according to NBC. 

Vilsack said the new rules eliminate marketing for products that can’t be sold in schools. "If you can't sell it, you ought not to be able to market it," noting that companies spend $149 million a year marketing food and drinks to kids in public schools.

According to the FCC, the heaviest marketers are candy and snack food manufacturers and beverage companies and fast-food chains, offering enticements like coupons for pizza for reading books. Still, only two states, California and Connecticut, have banned sodas and junk food from public schools, the former in 2005 and the latter in 2006.Continue reading...

afternoon snack

Hershey Latest to Adopt GMA's Facts Up Front Labeling

Posted by Dale Buss on April 23, 2013 11:51 AM

While the Obama administration continues to deliberate to what extent and how quickly food and beverage companies must communicate more nutrition information on the packages of their products, more CPG leaders are stepping out with their own initiatives to address still-rising concerns about junk food and obesity in America.

Hershey is the latest. The candy leader announced that it will print the amounts of calories, saturated fats, sodium and sugar per serving on the front of all of its packages beginning in the second half of this year and evolving across all of its packaging over the next several years.

"We are doing this because we belive that front-of-pack labeling provides consumers with straightforward information that empowers them to make informed food and beverage choices when shopping," said a Hershey spokesman, according to Candy and Snack Today.Continue reading...

package design

OK, Now, Hide the Best Things About Your Product on the Back of the Package

Posted by Dale Buss on September 26, 2011 11:54 AM

The growing fight between the federal government and the food and beverage industry over front-of-package nutritional labeling is going to come down to these words: "Some product icons may also provide information about fiber, vitamins, calcium and other nutrients that are essential for a healthy diet."

This sentence is taken from the new web site that describes the labeling system being pursued by the industry and being promoted now in the early stages of a $50 million consumer awareness campaign. Companies understandably want to be able to tout the positive nutritional attributes of their branded products in addition to listing, in an easy-to-understand, standard format, what might be called the "baddies": sugar, saturated fats, calories and sodium.

Mainstream food and beverage manufacturers have spent billions of dollars reformulating old products and introducing new ones along better-for-you lines over the last several years, so why shouldn't they want to promote these advantages to consumers right there on the front of the package?Continue reading...

chew on this

Is the Food Industry Stealing a March on Feds?

Posted by Dale Buss on January 26, 2011 05:45 PM

American food and beverage manufacturers and retailers finally launched their new system for front-of-package nutritional labeling this week, declaring with political point-scoring in mind that it all had to do with prompting by First Lady Michelle Obama and her anti-obesity initiative.

But the reality is more complicated:

• The industry doesn’t like the system favored by Mrs. Obama and the Food & Drug Administration, which is still devising its own new “voluntary” standards for nutritional labeling – and so the group launched a scheme that the feds won’t completely endorse.

• While crediting Mrs. Obama’s efforts from the bully pulpit, some manufacturers already were using essentially the same system they have now settled upon — even before the First Lady embraced the childhood-obesity platform and urged them to change their labels.Continue reading...

health matters

US Food Manufacturers' New Labels Disappoint Michelle Obama

Posted by Barry Silverstein on January 26, 2011 05:00 PM

When the First Lady of the United States commits to an issue, she commits. And no issue has been closer to Michelle Obama's heart than childhood obesity.

Her desire to use her clout to spur nutrition prompted the First Lady to give a speech last March, in which she urged food manufacturers to create labels for their products that would help consumers do a better job of choosing the right foods.

In May, she announced Let's Move, a national anti-obesity campaign targeting children. In September, she urged the restaurant industry to step up. And last week, Mrs. Obama joined Wal-Mart corporate execs to launch the brand's healthy eating initiative.

Now the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute have worked together to answer Mrs. Obama's call, but the new labels they're introducing, dubbed Nutrition Keys, leave a lot to be desired, meeting with only "tepid" approval from the First Lady — and thus the White House and the Federal government.Continue reading...

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