The consumption of sugary cereal, like watching Saturday morning cartoons, is a time-honoured childhood tradition—a rite not lost on cereal makers, who for decades have carefully marketed their most sugar-loaded products to young children, cultivating well-known brands with mascots like Tony the Tiger and Cap’n Crunch. But you can cross Toucan Sam off the list of kid-friendly pitch animals.
Following the threat of a lawsuit in the United States, and pressure from parents’ groups and nutritionists, last week Kellogg Co., the world’s biggest cereal maker, said it would cut back its marketing of sugary cereal to children under 12—a shift likely to send ripples through the industry, not to mention shivers through the likes of the Trix Bunny and the Froot Loops bird, Toucan Sam.
Kellogg said it would stop marketing, to children under 12, cereal and other snacks that have, per serving, more than 200 calories, more than two grams of saturated fat or any trans fat, more than 230 grams of sodium, and more than 12 grams of sugar. That spells trouble for some of its popular products, like Pop-Tarts and Froot Loops. In fact, Kellogg said that half of the products it markets to children don’t meet the criteria. It plans to either reformulate them or stop marketing them to children by the end of2008. (Kellogg already claims it doesn’t market to children under 6.)
The new limits don’t represent a dramatic change in cereal nutrition. Many products already meet the limits, like Post’s Honeycomb and Cocoa Pebbles cereals, and General Mills’ Lucky Charms brand (though others, including Froot Loops, Post’s Golden Crisp and General Mills’ Trix, do not). Nevertheless, Kellogg’s plan is being called an important step toward what many hope will be a whole new approach to marketing food to children—like a twist on a well-worn slogan: Trix aren’t for kids anymore; they’re for dessert. M
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