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It was less than a year ago that Kraft Foods announced that it would change the packaging of various products so that it would be more reflective of accurate serving sizes, responding to the complaint that often small packages would appear to be a single serving but in fact would contain several servings, not to mention several servings worth of calories, fat, etc…

Now, however, Kraft is changing its tune, opting to change its packaging only insofar as it means changing the nutrition labeling on it so that consumers have a clearer idea of what they are consuming and how it will have an impact on them nutritionally. In addition, what Kraft refers to as ‘total package consumption data” will only be available for snacks sold in packages containing four servings or less. According to the company, the new labeling will not be used for larger servings and family pack containers.

In essence, this means that Kraft will be doing the math for its customers, a decision the company said was supported by research into consumer preferences. Kraft spokeswoman Nancy Daigler said that the change in approach was not made because of concerns that the company would shrink the package sizes but not the prices it charges.

Kraft has been struggling with the implementation of its stated policy of creating a more healthful product line. The company has acquired several health food businesses and has pledged to stop marketing in schools.

"Our ongoing actions are part of a broader societal response to growing health and wellness concerns, including obesity," said Kraft CEO Roger K. Deromedi. "It's going to take a comprehensive approach that involves many sectors of society to truly accelerate the change that's needed. We're ready, as are many other food companies, to collaborate and cooperate with governments, policy experts, industries and communities around the world."

In a press release, the company noted that in less than one year, it “has reduced the fat content in, and made other changes to, about 200 existing, individual products in North America, which account for about 5% of Kraft's annual North American product volume. While noting that this is only a beginning, Kraft estimates that, on an annualized basis, these changes will eliminate more than 30 billion calories from the 200 reformulated products.

“As part of its program to reduce or eliminate trans fat, Kraft has reformulated a number of products to meet the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) per-serving standard for zero grams trans fat, among them Triscuit crackers and Reduced Fat Oreo. The company expects to roll out additional products under this program throughout the remainder of 2004 and into 2005.”
KC's View:
Not to be overly glib about this, but it seems to us that this is a sensible move if we can believe that people will read the labels, understand and interpret them correctly, and then apply that knowledge to their eating habits.

Not sure that this is an intelligent presumption. Changing the labels is probably easier than changing the packaging size, but we’re not sure that either one – done together or separately – really solves the problem.

We’re a lot more impressed with the trans fat moves being made by the company. But nobody should start thinking that Oreos suddenly are going to be good for you.

Good, certainly. But not good for you. Even in the Reduced Fat variety.