Former First Lady Michelle Obama this week announced the creation of a new company, PLEZi Nutrition, with a stated goal "to create higher standards for how the U.S. makes and markets food and beverages for kids, leading with nutrition, taste, and truth."
The announcement came at the Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival.
PLEZi Nutrition is being described as a "public benefit company, which means, according to the Cornell Law School website, that it is "a corporation created to generate social and public good, and to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner."
Here's the rationale for PLEZi, as delineated in the announcement:
"The U.S. is in a nutrition-related health crisis. Kids are not getting the recommended levels of nutrients they need, and they are consuming far too much added sugar—on average, 53 pounds of added sugar per year. Sugar-sweetened beverages, also referred to as sugary drinks, are the leading source of added sugar, and nearly two-thirds of youth consume sugary drinks on a given day.
"Building on her efforts in the White House with her Let's Move! initiative, Mrs. Obama is a Co-Founder and Strategic Partner with PLEZi Nutrition, working behind-the-scenes to guide the company's mission to be a driver of change and a model for how food and beverage brands can support the health of our next generation … PLEZi Nutrition was created to give parents a helping hand by offering healthier, great-tasting products that parents can feel good about giving their kids and that kids actually want. The company is focused on lowering sugar content and lowering sweetness to help adjust kids' palates to crave less sweetness overall. In addition to reducing the sugar and sweetness, they are adding in nutrients kids need, all with the aim to replace sugary drinks and snacks.
"PLEZi Nutrition's first product - a kids' drink called PLEZi—has 75% less sugar than average leading 100% fruit juices, no added sugar, plus fiber and nutrients, like potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Currently available in four flavors nationwide at Target and Sprouts and online at Walmart, PLEZi's goal is to ultimately be available anywhere you can buy a soda or sports drink. The company plans to expand into additional beverages and snacks in the years ahead.
"More than an effort to create better products, PLEZi Nutrition will also provide an educational platform for parents and kids. A sizable portion of the marketing budget will be dedicated to promotional content around what's best for kids' health. PLEZi Nutrition believes kids should be drinking water as their primary beverage. The company will actively promote drinking water and eating whole fruits and vegetables. PLEZi is intended to replace sugary drinks and snacks that do not support kids' health and to help promote healthier habits."
- KC's View:
I'm not sure that, if the goal is to get kids to drink more water, the first product introduced should be a kids' drink, even one with less sugar than most fruit juices. That said, Michelle Obama has a lot of street cred around this issue, and it will be interesting to see how she parlays that into a functional and effective business model operating in a "responsible and sustainable manner."