Group Claims Girl Scout Cookie Candy Bars Aimed at Kids

Nestle says product developed to appeal to adults, and advertised, marketed accordingly

WASHINGTON -- The Center for Science in the Public Interest claims that Nestles' new line of Girl Scout-themed Crunch bars violates the candy company's pledge that it does not market candy to children. In a letter to Nestle USA chairman and CEO Brad Alford, the consumer group urged the company to stop marketing unhealthy foods featuring the Girl Scout's name and logo and refrain from similar marketing approaches in the future.

The limited-edition candy bars bear the Girl Scouts logo and come in three varieties meant to resemble three popular Girl Scout Cookie flavors (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage).

Nestle's pledge not to market any candy to children is made through its membership in the Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative, the industry's self-regulatory body.

In a statement responding to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle USA said:
"Nestle's licensing agreement with Girl Scouts of the USA does not violate our commitment to the Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Contrary to the assertions of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, we are not engaging in child-directed advertising or marketing for Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars sold at grocery stores, convenience stores and mass market retail outlets which are primarily adult-oriented venues. Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars were developed to appeal to an adult audience, and our advertising and marketing efforts are directed accordingly.
"Nestle has been a member of the CFBAI since 2008. As part of our pledge, we only advertise healthier dietary choices to children such as Nestle Juicy Juice and some varieties of Nestle Nesquik flavored milk which meet meaningful nutrition standards.
"We recognize that obesity in America is a real public health problem, and encourage consumers to eat Nestle Crunch Girl Scout candy bars and other treats in moderation. Nestle is committed to providing consumers with delicious, high-quality foods and beverages that can be enjoyed as part of a nutritious diet, clear nutritional information, and educational tools to support a healthy lifestyle."

It added:

"The [CFBAI] is aimed at advertising that is primarily directed to children under 12--advertising that is designed to be appealing and persuasive to children. It applies broadly to participants' advertising on measured media (TV, radio, print, Internet-both company-owned and third-party sites) that is child-directed and to new and emerging social media, such as ads on video games, DVDs and apps on mobile media that are primarily directed to children.
"Nestle's arrangement with the Girl Scouts of the USA does not violate its commitment under the CFBAI pledge because it is not engaging in child-directed advertising for products with a Girl Scout logo. Our program does not apply to packaging at point of sale because grocery stores are primarily adult-oriented venues.
"We rigorously monitor and report on compliance with all of our participants' commitments and investigate allegations of non-compliance. We would have been pleased to look into this and explain our position to the CSPI and BMG, had they asked."
The controversial consumer advocacy group said that the new candy bars have more calories, more saturated fat and more sugars.

"A third of the kids in the United States are overweight or obese, yet Nestle is targeting vulnerable young girls with these obesogenic junk foods," said Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan in a media statement. "It's not credible for the company to claim these are marketed exclusively to adults, any more than if their labels bore Dora the Explorer instead of the Girl Scouts."

Nestle's Thin Mints candy bar has 200 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 16 grams of sugars; a Caramel & Coconut variety has 190 calories, nine grams of saturated fat, and 17 grams of sugars; a Peanut Butter Creme variety has 190 calories, six grams of saturated fat and 13 grams of sugars, according to the group.

"The Girl Scout tie-in and logo will attract the attention of children, especially young girls," said Lori Dorfman, director of Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute. "After all, for 100 years, the Girl Scouts has worked to keep focused on girls' issues, empowering young girls around the world. Even if the candy bar advertising is targeted towards adults, the Girl Scouts image appeals to children and so constitutes marketing to children."

Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle USA, with 2011 sales of $10 billion, is part of Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland, with 2011 sales of $94 billion.

Click here to view Center for Science in the Public Interest's full letter.