Kellogg Changes How It Markets to Kids

CHICAGO Kellogg will change the way it markets to children, setting strict guidelines on the nutritional content and approaches to advertising aimed at kids under 12.

“The initiatives we’re announcing today set a new standard of responsibility and are consistent with our 100-plus year heritage, further strengthening our commitment to helping consumers make informed food choices,” said company CEO David Mackay. “In addition, we plan to increasingly emphasize products with enhanced nutritional value as well as continuing to find ways to emphasize nutrition and health lifestyles in our marketing to children.”

The criteria for ads targeting kids will be based on the amounts of calories, fat, sodium and sugar in various products. Under the guidelines, Frosted Flakes cereal would make the cut, but Pop-Tarts would not. Products that do not fit the guidelines would either be reformulated or not be advertised to children after 2008, Mackay said.

The company estimated that about half of its current products marketed to children do not currently meet the nutritional guidelines. About 27 percent of its $570 million advertising budget is directed to kids under 12, according to the company. Kellogg does not advertise to children under 6.

The company also said it would limit licensing agreements with outside partners. Other strategies include changing product Web sites to foster more parental involvement and a timer limiting kids to 15 minutes before encouraging them to log off.

In addition, the company said it would revamp its packaging to make key nutritional information more prominent.

In January 2006, two children’s advocacy groups—the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood—and two parents filed a lawsuit against Kellogg and Viacom. Of particular concern to the groups was advertising on cable networks like Nickelodeon and related magazines and licensed products.

As a result of today’s changes, the suit has been dropped. “By committing to these nutrition standards and marketing reforms, Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry,” said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobsen, in a statement. “As a practical matter, this commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices.”

Under increasing pressure, other food marketers have also changed their advertising practices. In 2005, Kraft Foods said it would halt advertising products that didn’t meet certain nutritional guidelines to children under 12. That same year, McDonald’s said it would remake Ronald McDonald into a fitness-loving character that encourages kids to get off the couch. He even changed his attire, moving from a clownish jumper to a more athletic tracksuit.