July 21, 2005 — -- Could one bad apple spoil our children's nutrition habits? Some nutritionists and scientists, concerned with a negative portrayal of the fruit in a new Kellogg's television commercial, say yes.
Kellogg's new mascot for its Apple Jacks cereal is an animated apple who is "sour," "grouchy," and hangs out in an alley. His counterpart is the "laid back" and "happy" Jamaican cinnamon stick, CinnaMon, sweetly protecting Apple Jacks cereal from "bad" apple flavor.
The advertising campaign is under fire from non-profit groups the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. They say the ad's depiction of the apple suggest that Apple Jacks cereal is better than the real "sour" fruit.
Kellogg issued the following statement to defend the campaign. "Kellogg has a longstanding commitment to advertise in a responsible manner. The current Apple Jacks campaign is designed to be a lighthearted and fun way to communicate the cinnamon great taste of the cereal. It is not intended to disparage apples or discourage children from eating apples."
Many nutritionists supported CSPI's complaint and voiced concern over the negative portrayal of an apple.
"Kellogg should be ashamed -- a new low even for them," said nutrition specialist Madelyn Fernstrom at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "To suggest that an unadulterated apple is not a desirable food, that add-ons are needed to make it a 'good' food sends a terrible mixed message to our children. This is so wrong."
Nutritionists and dietitians were concerned that the advertisement would somehow confuse kids about healthy and unhealthy foods.
"Consumers don't need any more mixed messages about how to make healthful choices," Connie Diekman, director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis. "Messages like this one only add to the confusion and result in parents who feel frustrated about what to serve their children."
Dietitian Keith Ayoob at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City found the portrayal of the CinnaMon adding sweetness to the cereal particularly misleading.
"Cinnamon isn't sweet," said Ayoob. "The sugar is what gives it a sweet taste. I'm not as worried as CSPI that the reputation of apples is being dragged through the dirt. I just think it is bad advertising because it is contradictory and misleading."
A few nutritionists provided a simpler view of the heated argument over proper promotions of apples in advertisements.
"As a dietitian and parent I'd guess that apples are the most commonly eaten fruit in America," said nutritionist Althea Zanecosky. "A cereal ad that says apples with cinnamon taste good does not mean that children will eat less apples."
However, a few experts saw a funnier side of the debate.
"I've never seen a study that suggests apples are bad for anyone," said cardiologist Dr. Richard Fleming. "In fact, if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I wonder if a whole bushel could help reduce ridiculous comments made by people about apples."