In fact, the agency said in communications to the New York City-based brand about its about-face, the FDA also is taking a broader look at changing its definition of terms such as “healthy” because they’ve been outdated by new understandings about the role of nutrients such as healthy fats in the diet.
“They recognize that the regulations need to be updated,” KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky told Fortune. “It’s an opportunity to work with policy.”
This whole turn of events came about because Lubetzky and KIND weren’t willing to sit still last year when the FDA told them that their better-for-you snack bars weren’t, technically, “healthy.”
On its packaging and in its marketing, KIND referred to its products as “healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome, economically sustainable and socially impactful.” It’s part of a broad statement about its corporate philosophy, one that Lubetzky has pursued to great success in terms of sales and product ubiquity and also in terms of brand equity.
But the FDA said last year that KIND had to remove “healthy” from the back wrapper of four bars whose ingredients totaled more than the acceptable levels of saturated fat and calories from saturated fat to carry the “healthy” designation—even though it was the addition of nuts, whose fats are considered healthy, which pushed the KIND SKUs over the threshold.
KIND removed the word but swung into action in another way: by getting 16 nutritional experts to sign something called a “citizens’ petition” to the agency challenging the FDA standards regarding “healthy” fats, which KIND said hadn’t been updated in 20 years.
The agency recently let KIND know that it was changing its regulatory mind and that the brand could return to its original language using the word “healthy,” even on packaging—though not specifically referring to nutritional content. “KIND satisfactorily addressed the violations contained in the warning letter,” the agency said now.
And more broadly, the FDA said in an email to KIND that was seen by Fortune, “In light of evolving nutrition research, forthcoming Nutrition Facts Labeling final rules, and a citizen petition, we believe now is an opportune time to re-evaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term ‘healthy,'” the agency said.
Presumably, the FDA also will sweep in its reconsideration of other terms, such as the essentially useless moniker “natural,” in its new regulations. And the entire food industry has KIND, in part, to thank for it.