Michelle Obama Starts a Healthy Food Company

Still Life with Teapot and FruitNope. We are not done with fighting obesity by selling water, fruits, and veggies. Former First Lady Michelle Obama is starting a healthy food and beverage company with the help of private equity. Ordinarily, we’re supposed to think of private equity as the bad guys – helping the rich get richer and driving wider disparities. But not in this case. PLEZi Nutrition will be a public benefit corporation. Big, bad food company? No way. Welcome to little good food.

Food is medicine guru Dariush Mozaffarian is totally on board with this:

“A wave of investment is now directed toward more nourishing and authentic foods. We are not going to solve today’s nutrition crisis with yesterday’s solutions. It’s terrific to see a leader like first lady Michelle Obama in this innovation movement.”

Drinks with 75% Less Sugar

The first offering for this effort to do good and do well for private equity will be fruit drinks in bright packaging with 75 percent less sugar than top brands. For good measure and good health, they’ll throw in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Sounds mighty healthy.

Pediatrician Shale Wong is an advisor to the company and says this is an effort to meet parents and kids where they are in real life:

“While we know that water or milk is always the best option for kids, and we’ll continue to recommend that first, kids who are used to drinking soda or 100% fruit juice daily are not going to easily make that switch.”

Working Within the System

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, likes what she sees in this great new approach for overcoming childhood obesity. She says:

“Innovation must happen from within the food system if we’re going to ultimately make the kind of change that will create healthier environments for kids. We certainly applaud Mrs. Obama and everyone who’s trying to innovate in the food system for creating these healthier options for our kids and families.”

A Bigger Picture to Consider

The low and no sugar drinks business is already booming. So maybe Michelle Obama will do well with her food and beverage company. Or maybe that wave has already crested. No matter.

Simply selling more food that we rationalize and label as “healthy” does nothing to change the larger systems driving the population toward higher prevalence of more severe obesity. This track has been taking us nowhere for quite a long while.

All the talk about reforming food systems is certainly well intended, as was the Let’s Move! campaign. But there is a larger context that matters more. Food systems interact with social, economic, and technical systems, as well as physical environments to influence health and obesity. We need healthier communities. Not just healthy-ish food in pretty packages.

Click here, here, and here for more on the new Michelle Obama healthy food and beverage company.

Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, painting by Henri Rousseau / WikiArt

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May 6, 2023

4 Responses to “Michelle Obama Starts a Healthy Food Company”

  1. May 06, 2023 at 8:37 am, Allen Browne said:

    Unfortunately, Mrs. Obama and her advisors don’t understand obesity as a disease. Healthy foods are good for health and may sell well, but we have demonstrated that we do not know what in our environment disturbs our physiological system for maintaining a healthy amount of body fat. We now can treat the disease of obesity but , as yet, we have not figured out how to prevent it.

    Much work to do.


  2. May 06, 2023 at 9:39 am, David Yates said:

    Check out the categories for which TM protection was applied:

    Goods and Services IC 029. US 046. G & S: milk based beverages made with chocolate; snack bars made from fruit, nuts, cereals, chocolate, or yogurt; chips; cookies; popcorn; fruit-based snacks; yogurt smoothies; yogurt drinks; fruit candies and fruit chews
    IC 032. US 045 046 048. G & S: fruit juices; fruit and vegetable drinks; energy drinks; fruit-flavored beverages; energy drinks containing caffeine; fruit-flavored carbonated beverages; non-alcoholic carbonated beverages; non-alcoholic carbonated drinks; non-alcoholic water-based beverages; sports and energy drinks

  3. May 06, 2023 at 12:38 pm, Neva Cochran said:

    Amen to that!! As always, Ted, you are right on target. Let’s not put a colorful Band-Aid on a broken leg and expect it to heal.

  4. May 06, 2023 at 2:58 pm, Mary-Jo said:

    Convenience foods, ready-to-eat (and drink) items are part of life now, regardless of the push to cook from scratch and eat basic, wholesome foods — foods that help people enjoy eating, feel satisfied with less kcalories, more fiber, and, overall, more nutrition for kcalorie content. I always look for items I can easily and confidently recommend to help people improve their dietary intake. But, even ‘healthy-ish’ food consumption doesn’t assure less sugar, less energy intake. Moreover, taste and cost remain top factors for purchase, consumption, demand. If both of these factors are too low and too high, respectively, I wouldn’t want to suggest even trying any of these products. I am curious to see whether there will be any value-added from this venture.