The snacks brand led the way on several key regulatory fronts this year, including successfully petitioning FDA to reevaluate its definition of the term "healthy."
How many companies can say they stood at the happy intersection of not one, but two, of the most consequential regulatory developments to hit the food and beverage industry in 2016? From KIND’s role in prompting FDA to reevaluate how it defines the term healthy on food labeling, to its early disclosure of the added-sugar content of its products, the snacks brand managed to turn potential regulatory headaches into leadership opportunities and positive press.
It’s a big change from this time last year, when KIND was still embroiled in media scrutiny following an FDA warning letter objecting to the brand’s use of the phrase “healthy and tasty” on several of its snack bars. KIND’s products exceeded the threshold of fat per serving outlined under FDA’s current definition of healthy nutrient content claims, the agency said, and therefore had to stop using the term.
KIND shot back with a citizen petition in December of 2015 urging FDA to update its “outdated” food labeling requirements, while also pointing out that the current regulations for “healthy” claims were last updated more than 20 years ago. With its focus on fat, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, FDA’s definition of healthy unjustly maligns many ingredients now thought to be nutritious, including nuts, avocados, and salmon, KIND said. Meanwhile, some high-sugar foods can be called “healthy.”
KIND’s campaign paid off. FDA announced in May that it would be reevaluating its regulations for “healthy” claims and that KIND could return to using the word healthy on its wrappers as a statement of “corporate philosophy,” but not as a health claim. In September, FDA officially requested public comments on how healthy should be defined, citing KIND’s citizen petition as one reason why it was reevaluating the term.
Stephanie Perruzza, health and wellness communications specialist for KIND, says the brand applauds FDA’s decision to reevaluate the term healthy “in light of evolving nutrition research.”
“A revised definition of healthy is an important step towards ensuring consumers have the information they need to make informed food choices,” Perruzza tells Nutritional Outlook. In the meantime, though, KIND doesn’t intend to place the term back on its product packaging.
Beyond the healthy saga, KIND also made headlines this year as one of the first major snacks brands to disclose the added sugar content of its products. FDA released its new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods and beverages in May, which includes a requirement for large manufacturers to disclose added-sugar content by July 26, 2018. But in August, nearly two years before FDA’s deadline, KIND announced it would be publishing the added-sugar content of more than 60 of its products online.
“Disclosing the added sugar in our products in advance of the 2018 deadline was part of our continued commitment to transparency and providing consumers with information to help them make more informed food choices,” Perruzza notes. She adds that beginning in early 2017, the actual packaging of select KIND products will begin to carry added-sugar listings.
“We were excited to be the first national snack brand to publicly share the added-sugar content across our portfolio and hope to set a positive example within the industry,” Perruzza says.
Sugar reduction was another key priority at KIND in 2016; the brand recently reformulated its fruit and nut bars so they contain between 14% and 56% less sugar. It also debuted Pressed by KIND ingredient bars earlier this year, which are totally free from added sugar. More new KIND products made without added sugar are slated for launch in 2017, according to Perruzza.
Other 2016 winners: