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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Krafting a campaign to support food gardens

Cassandra West

COMMENTARY By Susan Richardson

A recent story about Chicago-area Kraft Foods is simply too delicious to ignore. The world's second- largest food company - and maker of the nutritious Cheez Whiz (“Cheezy and Darn Proud of It!”) – is encouraging the consumers of its Triscuit wheat crackers to grow their own food. Some of you may have already used the seed packets inserted in 4 million Triscuit boxes beginning in March.

It appears that the food giant is cleverly trying to rebrand itself to court the rising home-grown food movement. In an attempt to reach its core audience -- the same 35 -year old- women who are down with First Mom Michelle Obama in her efforts to reduce childhood obesity and restore nutrition to American diets -- Triscuit’s brand managers took a calculated leap, according to a story in OMMA: the Online Magazine of Media, Marketing and Advertising.  They decided to link the cracker’s simple, wholesome ingredients with the growing interest in food gardening. Kraft says Triscuit’s ingredients are wheat, salt and oil.  The article describes the decision as an “intuitive connection.”

So far, the marketing campaign – or “movement,” as Triscuit handlers call it – is working. The food giant, whose motto is “make today delicious,” teamed up with the nonprofit Urban Growing to launch community vegetable farms in 20 cities, OMMA reported. The company also created a garden at its office in Northfield, a Chicago suburb. Volunteers get to keep what they grow. Kraft launched a special web site that includes gardening tips. The site has had 260,000 unique visitors since the initiative was launched in March.  And Kraft snagged TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who has her own Triscuit-sponsored veggie garden.

Earlier this year, Kraft announced that it was imposing voluntary sodium limits in some of its food to help reduce galloping high-blood pressure rates among Americans. One foodie quoted in the OMMA article said Kraft’s investment in food gardens is a good thing, but most panned the move as disingenuous. We should recognize efforts by food companies to tweak unhealthy food manufacturing and processing. Like reducing sodium levels. But as a friend noted, are wheat, salt and oil really the only ingredients in Triscuits?

I mean Gee Whiz. Or should I say Cheez Whiz?

Weigh in on the Triscuit campaign. Comment below.