Campbell’s New School Foods: Positive Trend?

November 11, 2008

HSC's experts discuss two perspectives on new Campbell Soup products created especially for schools.

From Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director:

Campbell Soup recently announced that it has reformulated its product line specifically for schools, lowering salt and fat content to meet the nutrition standards encouraged by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  The reformulated products include Goldfish Snack Crackers in Cheddar, Parmesan and Whole Grain Cheddar and Giant Goldfish Grahams in Chocolate and Cinnamon; as well as its soups. As of now, the company has no plans to reformulate the products that are offered to the public.

Is this good news or not?  I am not sure.

On the one hand, this only reinforces the trend away from freshly prepared meals to highly processed foods (in the home, schools and elsewhere). But without significant improvement in school kitchens and more training for staff, we aren't likely to see most schools move toward freshly prepared meals.

So, on balance, this change this good. 

However, I am disturbed by the fact that the change is being made only in the school environment.  Most school menus very clearly identify the brand of products being offered.  Parents and others can then reasonably expect that the products offered in the grocery store have similar ingredients and nutritional properties.

From Jean Saunders, School Wellness Director:

I think this is good news, more for what it represents as a trend than what it means as a single action. It shows the power that the marketplace has on the nutrition profile of products manufactured for school food service. These changes were not mandated, but rather came as a result of public pressure on food manufacturers. Parents and advocates, organized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, spoke up for improvements to the products that are served in schools — and Campbell Soup responded with changes to those products.

While we know that large companies are making changes to be competitive and maintain their market share, it is one of the many “winds of change” that is blowing over the food landscape. These are the important first steps in what will be a slow-moving domino effect.

And, this change could be seen as setting a precedent. Ultimately, it will be more cost-effective for food manufacturers to streamline their product formulations, making the same products for home and school. It won't be long before we see their consumer product options reflect this trend.

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What do you think? HSC welcomes your comments below.