Junk Food Makers Market Look-Alike ‘Smart Snacks’ In Schools To Mislead Kids, Study Claims
Nancy Fink Huehnergarth
A study published in Childhood Obesity on Wednesday found that junk food makers might be deliberately deceiving school children and parents by selling “look-alike” Smart Snacks in the nation’s schools. These snacks, which are slightly healthier versions of packaged foods like Pop Tarts, Rice Krispie Treats, Cheetos, and Doritos, are only sold in schools, yet are packaged similarly to unhealthier versions sold in stores.
A typical Smart Snack reformulation involves lowering the sugar, salt and/or fat content of the food item while increasing protein and/or whole grain content. Calories are often lower in the reformulated version, as well. The study found that, “kids think the healthier Smart Snacks they can buy in school are the same products that are sold in stores,” said Jennifer Harris, lead author of the study and Director of Marketing Initiatives for the UConn Rudd Center, which conducted the research.
“It’s confusing because the packaging for these look-alike Smart Snacks looks so much like the less nutritious versions that kids see advertised on TV and in the stores,” Dr. Harris continued. “And this is a great marketing tool; the snack makers get to sell their products in schools and at the same time market their unhealthy brands to kids every school day.”