A couple weeks ago, Fooducate guest blogger Karen Le Billion reported on the evils of marketing to kids in “Food Marketing to Kids: What Every Parent Should Know”. As a mom, I was predictably annoyed and frustrated. At the top of my frustration list? The reported 40,000 food ads that will reach my daughters this year. Needless to say, these ads are powered by big food companies who easily fund million dollar fantasies about the merits of sugar, salt, chocolate covered, icing dipped hard-to-pronounce “food”. The same food companies that we at MySuperFoods Company are up against in the stores. The same food companies that ultimately inspired us to start a company of our own.
Le Billion, the author of French Kids Eat Everything is an advocate of banning “vending machines, fast food, and food advertising of any kind” (in all schools). This is a noble cause and one that I would ultimately get behind as a mom and a business owner. However, we have a long way to go before even small changes are made. So, in the mean time, I want to be a part of the process that turns the current mindset around. Lessening the effect of the one that lures our kids in with flashy messages delivering empty calories and dialing up another that educates, empowers and nourishes. Not enough people are teaching kids about nutrition. Who better than a nutrition-minded food company?
Let me acknowledge a few things to avoid the obvious counter argument:
1. Yes, we sell products to make money. But we also have a larger goal to educate and excite parents and kids to eat well. As a new company, it’s easy for us to say we support banning food advertising in schools because…we don’t have much money to advertise anywhere. We know it’s not that simple. The point is that instead of banning everything, we would rather be a part of the process of spreading the good word about food.
2. Yes, we make packaged food that will never be better than 1 ingredient, real, whole food. We can’t compete with sliced apples dipped in natural peanut butter. As moms, we found a need for on-the-go, nutrient dense food in our own families and learned others felt the same. Whole grains, oat bran, flax seed, amaranth flour and real fruit provide excellent nutritional benefits. And even though I love and eat apples with peanut butter regularly, when I forget a snack for my daughters as I’m pulling out the driveway, I need something I can grab. Fast.
3. Yes, we used a cartoon likeness of our own super kids to appeal to you and yours. We started this company because of our kids and it was a natural synergy. But we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we know what attracts kids. Bright, fun colors and characters don’t just belong on the other stuff. Good food can (and should) be fun too. We know the competition. We had to make an entrance.
4. No, I don’t think this will be easy or as rose-colored as I’ve made it sound. But we’ve never had a problem being the underdog.
So, although the mom in me supports the ultimate goal behind a movement for stricter kids food regulation, I will for now proceed ahead, focused on raising awareness of nutrient dense options and ways to actually teach kids that what they put in their mouths matters. Hopefully encouraging something fun in the meantime.