Soup maker describes challenges of giving kids healthy choices


It’s all well and good to ask food manufacturers to observe strict nutritional guidelines for food that it wants to sell to children, through their parents. But if the rules are too strict, said Jim Baughman of Campbell Soup Company, and if they cannot effectively market it, and if its taste profile is so austere that kids won’t eat it, there’s no point.

Baughman, who is Campbell’s senior marketing counsel, appeared at a hearing on the topic held in Washington 10/12/11.

He said that the company is fully aware of the childhood obesity epidemic and of the long term health problems that result from it.

But the answers aren’t all that cut and dried, he testified. “We must, however, act on this concern while remembering that if people don’t enjoy what they eat, they will reject it and eat something they like better. This is why pushing healthy foods to the point where they don’t taste good or have an objectionable texture (or price) won’t help anyone eat better. Food makers can only market and sell what regular people can afford and would like to eat. And, we food makers do not want to make it more difficult for parents when they try to get their children to eat their vegetables and whole grains. Insisting on marketing standards that would force food makers to reformulate to recipes that people tell them don’t taste good is not a constructive approach to reversing obesity trends.”

He said his company sells items to 6-11 year olds in three categories, soups, main dishes and whole grain or enriched flour snacks. He said that under the guidelines as originally presented by a coalition of government agencies, the company would not be able to promote many of its products, even though they are seen as excellent choices given other purely unhealthy alternatives.

It is also important for the company to make the packaging for these items appealing to children.

Baughman suggested that one of the benefits of its healthy snacks such as those sold by his company is that they help control hunger and are therefore an effective hedge against overeating and make a positive contribution to the battle against obesity, just to make one point. He said that his company supports the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, and suggested that its guidelines be adopted rather than those proposed by the Interagency Working Group.

RBR-TVBR observation: We really don’t have a problem with this discussion taking place on Capitol Hill and elsewhere – knowledge is good. But this is just not an area that will lend itself to a legislative fix.

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