Little Snack Bar Takes On Big Food
It’s a perfect narrative. A brave entrepreneur making healthy snack bars is putting his money on the line to bring us truth in nutrition. Daniel Lubetzky, founder and owner of Kind Bars LLC, announced Tuesday that he is funding the creation of a new nonprofit. He will call it Feed the Truth. And thus, Little Snack Bar will save us from Big Food.
Lubetzky started this war for truth in nutrition back in 2015. FDA told him to stop claiming that his sweet snack bars are “healthy snacks.” So he filed a protest with FDA. He asked the agency to change its definition of “healthy.” In just four months, he won an OK from FDA to call his products “healthy” again.
At the same time, he prompted FDA to review its outdated rules for calling any food healthy. The whole episode is a great case study for a brand-building PR campaign. No wonder he’s pledging $25 million (spread over ten years) to keep the PR going.
For his $2.5 million down payment this year, he already has a glowing endorsement from the Washington Post. He collected favorable headlines in many other outlets, too. The headlines say he’s spending to “fight his own industry.” That’s fabulous spin. Another definition for this strategy is competing for more sales.
But perhaps the sweetest irony is this. Two well-known food industry critics will help Lubetzky polish his own brand image. Michael Jacobson and Marion Nestle, along with Deb Eschmeyer, will nominate a board of directors for Feed the Truth. About that board of directors, Lubetzky says:
I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to know who they are. I’m not going to forward them articles. The announcement will be done by us. After that, we’re cutting the cord. The decisions will be made by board members I’ve never met.
Perhaps, though, he’s a bit more honest in his press release when he describes Feed the Truth as an exercise that started with his snack bar business in 2004. From that perspective, Feed the Truth is just an extension of his business.
To be clear, we see nothing wrong with what Lubetzky is doing. This is clever cause-related marketing. No doubt, Feed the Truth will do some good things. But we do hope that they focus on more than defining marketing claims for individual “healthy” foods. Using health claims to drive ever greater consumption of food products can cause quite a bit of trouble.
If you have any doubt, just take a look at how much sugar we’re consuming from supposedly “healthy” yogurt snacks.
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February 17, 2017