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Kraft learns pro-activity

Today’s Wall Street Journal contains a fascinating story about how Kraft General Foods is planning to pull back on its marketing of ‘less healthy’ food to young children(heaven forbid the company would declare any food to not be good for you). Among the most interesting things to me about the story are 1) they have explicitly recognized the threat to their business from changing social norms regarding food companies’ responsibility for consumer health; 2) they have learned deep lessons from their sister company, Philip Morris (of Marlboro fame); and 3) they are potentially moving on a front that will deeply disadvantage competition.You can think of this in several ways, but defiitely the move counts as a way to end-run what is likely to be a permanently changed social and institutional environment for big packaged food companies. By moving early, Kraft can get ahead of laggards, some of whom are banging away on the old marketing tools, particularly for products like breakfast cereals (think sugar, sugar, sugar). On another front, Kraft’s adoption of a whole line of healthier foods co-branded with the South Beach Diet people signals a big shift in the product portfolio. Let’s watch and see what happens.

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