Share Your Breakfast With Kellogg: CSR or Advertising?

We've always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One corporate giant that has been making breakfast its business, recently announced a campaign to promote the meal. As part of Kellogg's Share Your Breakfast, the company asks people to upload their photos of what they eat for breakfast on the website. Kellogg will in turn donate up to $200,000 to help feed children from food-insecure households.

This a clever marketing plan with a CSR twist. Kellogg has on its campaign site that 1 in 4 children in the States have no access to breakfast. Through this campaign and their partnership with Action for Healthy Kids, they are hoping to provide 1 million breakfasts by the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

Some of the products that Kellogg has been promoting as part of its campaign includes Frosted Flakes and Nutri-Grain bars. However both products have been criticized for the high levels of sugar that they contain. Frosted Flakes mascoted by Tony the Tiger contains 11gms of sugar per three-fourths cup serving. In addition to sugar, it also contains high-fructose corn syrup.

Nutri-Grain bars which are promoted as a healthy breakfast or snack option contain more than 30 largely synthetic ingredients. Again, it contains HFCS and 11 gms of sugar. It is advertised containing "real fruit", "made with real fruit" and "good source of fiber". However it only contains fruit puree and 3 grams of fiber.

Kellogg is also offering promotions on Rice Krispies, Mini-Wheats, and Eggo Waffles. The waffles contain partially-hydrogenated oils in addition to HFCS. The amount of added sugar in processed food and especially cereal is a cause for concern.

The American Heart Association's (AHA) website states, that high intake of sugar is responsible for numerous health conditions "including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke." The AHA also established an upper limit on sugar consumption in 2009 saying that women should get no more than six teaspoons a day and men no more than nine. According to the AHA, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Most of Kellogg's products contain around 11 grams of sugar which is  close to three teaspoons of sugar. Considering that children should be eating less sugar than what an average woman is supposed to consume, one bowl of Kellogg cereal would pretty much fill their daily requirement for sugar. Of course, most packaged cereal contain high levels of sugar and this is not something that Kellogg alone is guilty of.

Marketing itself as the purveyor of healthy food items for children and actively targeting them however, is a different story. At the end of the day, regardless of the CSR spin Share Your Breakfast is an advertising campaign.  According to a New York Times article, it is their largest integrated marketing effort, with ads in broadcast, print, digital and social media.  The Times reports that Kellogg spent $464.9 million on advertising from January through September 2010 alone, which pales in comparison to the $200,000 they spent towards feeding hungry school children.

The food industry is full of examples of companies saying one thing and doing another. But really: Put your flakes where your mouth is Kellogg, and come up with a CSR initiative that we can believe.