CPG to help stem childhood obesity?

Articles
December 21, 2010

CPG to help stem childhood obesity?

Like spotting the first crocus of spring, The Lempert Report hopes a recent hire by Campbell Soup Co. is an early sign that food manufacturers will apply their vast resources and knowledge of food science to actively become part of the nation’s obesity solution.

Like spotting the first crocus of spring, The Lempert Report hopes a recent hire by Campbell Soup Co. is an early sign that food manufacturers will apply their vast resources and knowledge of food science to actively become part of the nation’s obesity solution.  

The soup manufacturer has installed Kim Fremont Fortunato as its director of the childhood obesity and hunger program. Her experience as a lawyer and non-profit executive may suit her role well – but we’d feel more excited if she were an M.D. That would indicate a serious high-level effort where medical minds could collaborate and move forward on course-correcting the American youth diet.  

We do expect good to come from Ms. Fortunato’s work with the medical community, non-profit entities and government agencies, and we applaud Campbell Soup for taking this responsible step – one that few, or perhaps no other food manufacturers, have yet to match on such a public level. We urge that she delivers more meaningful, substantial, insightful initiatives – and less PR seeking.

The Lempert Report feels it is overdue for other food companies to step this way too, and to develop parallel positions with real force that stand up for consumer health as a leading business strategy. Many manufacturers have already proclaimed less sodium and other ingredient improvements in their foods for 2011, and have staged corporate social responsibility platforms. That’s not enough in our view at The Lempert Report:  Food companies need to distance themselves from criticism of their processed formulas with substantive actions. Doing so would be good for their business, as well as for consumers.

Some 69% of U.S. adults rate childhood obesity as a “serious/extremely serious” problem – and many point their fingers at product marketers as the cause. According to a recent survey by Resonate Networks, Inc., 23% say the companies have “some” responsibility, while another 14% say they have the “greatest” responsibility.