You Gotta Walk the Walk

As a parent of two young kids, I try to limit processed foods and sugary snacks . This translates to fruit, veggies, cheese and crackers as snacks, and the only beverages you’ll find in our fridge are milk, unsweetened grapefruit juice, and soda water (sodium-free). At the grocery, I typically pass by the processed snacks , juice boxes and chips. When I buy something like mac and cheese, it’s organic , natural, and made with whole wheat pasta.

Today, my colleague sent me an article about companies like Kraft and Snapple investing their charitable dollars into building playgrounds. Don’t get me started on extolling the virtues of playgrounds – kids learn how to approach/befriend other kids, how to do things like do cartwheels or pump their legs on the swings by watching other kids, try things that take them outside their physical comfort zones – I could go on and on!

These investments are pretty transparent – Kraft and Snapple are trying to reach parents as a major segment of their target audience, and these playgrounds are one way to do that. But, they also demonstrate that the companies care about community and health.

It’s enough to make me stop and think that maybe I should give some of their products a second look. Investments like this can impact a company’s reputation. In this case, they’ve made me think twice; next time I buy juice boxes for a party, maybe I’ll look at the reduced sugar options they offer instead of buying the same ones I usually get.

One point for them.

Now, the question is, will their products support this commitment to health and wellness? Does Kraft offer a whole grain mac and cheese without artificial colors or flavors? Does Snapple offer reduced sugar beverages without artificial sweeteners, or other artificial ingredients? As far as I could see on their websites, no.

I even found a drink on Snapple’s site that claims to be all natural. It states, “NO artificial flavors. NO preservatives. NOthing like that in this bottle. Just real ingredients…” But then when I read the ingredients, I see Aspertame. Huh. Imagine that.Huh

Minus one. No, minus two points, for saying they’re committed to health and wellness but not executing on it. I think I’ll just stick with my usual mac and cheese, after all.

Kraft and Snapple are moving in the right direction – investing in health and wellness through building playgrounds. Corporate social responsibility (i.e. corporate citizenship) is playing an increasingly important role in companies’ reputations. But, to realize the biggest positive impact to its reputation, a company’s commitment should extend throughout the organization. For example, if Kraft and Snapple want to be viewed as companies committed to healthy lifestyles, their products have to support that message, as well as their corporate social responsibility efforts.

In other words: charitable efforts are great icing on the cake, but you’ve got to make the cake first.  And yes, my kids do eat cake occasionally!

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