News highlights, market trends, and original data analysis related to the U.S. retail food & beverage industry … by Jay Nargundkar
Bad news struck this week for a darling of the “real food” set: KIND Healthy Snacks was served with a detailed and strongly-worded reprimand from the FDA over a number of health claims and product label violations for their popular energy bars.
KIND is just the latest food/beverage high-flier — sales have tripled in the past two years and are at least $300 million annually — to rub regulators the wrong way regarding claims. The letter from the government regulators was actually sent a month ago, but only just became public. Most notably, the FDA took issue with the saturated fat content in four of KIND’s bars, and the use of the word “Plus” sign on some bars to denote “extra” nutrients. As it turns out, the word “plus” is strictly regulated by the agency, and can only be used for items which contains at least 10% more of the specified nutrient than a traditional product in that category (“an appropriate reference food,” the FDA letter calls it).
For its part, the company has reportedly conceded the latter point, agreeing to make “labeling adjustments” while not actually tweaking its existing product recipes. However, in a response defending their products, KIND strongly pushes back against the FDA’s definition of “healthy,” which they say does not take into account the nutritive benefits of nuts:
Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard. This is similar to other foods that do not meet the standard for use of the term healthy, but are generally considered to be good for you like avocados, salmon and eggs. Here is just some of the recent news and research on the significant nutritional benefits of nuts.
As the company noted, while the saturated fat content in nuts drew the FDA’s displeasure, their products may actually be more in line with recent research exonerating saturated fats as a nutritional villain. Reports NPR:
High-fat nuts, in particular, may help control our appetites, to keep weight down. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University… says that the FDA’s letter to Kind is based on outdated guidelines, at least when it comes to nuts.
The government updates its Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and the latest report from the advisory committee for those guidelines does indeed point to research supporting the inclusion of nuts in a healthful diet.
But the FDA seems to be lagging, in part because the agency doesn’t revise its guidelines as frequently. “I think there’s wide consensus that nuts are a healthy food,” Willett says.
With no clear resolution in site, you can bet this won’t be the last time a dispute over this topic erupts between the FDA and a food/beverage company.