A ‘Healthy’ Comeback for Kind

Snack-bar maker says 20-year-old labeling standards need to be updated

Kind Healthy Snacks

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has notified Kind Healthy Snacks that it can use the term “healthy” on its packaging as it had before—a reversal of the position the FDA took more than a year ago.

In March 2015, the FDA issued a warning letter requesting removal of the word “healthy” from the back panel of four Kind wrappers and its website.

Kind executives sought to better educate themselves on the applicable regulation, which states, in part, that snack foods labeled with “healthy” as a nutrient content claim can’t have more than 3 grams of total fat or 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. Nuts, a primary ingredient in Kind bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under this standard.

While the company initially responded by removing “healthy” from its four wrappers, it maintained that its usage was not a nutrient content claim.

The FDA has since agreed its usage is permissible under the current rules.

In examining the regulation, which was established more than two decades ago, Kind executives also learned that it precludes foods generally considered to be good for you—nuts, avocados and salmon—from being labeled as “healthy”; however, it allows items such as fat-free chocolate pudding, some sugary cereals and low-fat toaster pastries to carry the “healthy” designation.

“The current regulatory definition of ‘healthy’ is inconsistent with federal guidelines and scientific research, as today we know it’s advisable to prioritize eating whole foods, including nuts, plants, whole grains and seafood,” said David L. Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who has served as a nutrition adviser to Kind. “I applaud Kind for entering the policy conversation, their commitment to public health, and their appropriate focus on food over nutrients. I applaud the FDA, as well, for acknowledging that sometimes, companies get it right, while regulations, however well intended, can fall out of date.”

In December 2015, to help facilitate the delivery of clear and consistent dietary guidance to consumers, Kind—with the support of leading nutrition and public health experts—filed a citizen petition that urged the FDA to update its requirements related to the term “healthy” to emphasize the importance of eating real foods and nutrient-dense ingredients as part of healthy eating patterns.

“At Kind, ‘healthy’ has always been more than just a word on a label, so when we were asked to remove the term from our wrappers, it cut to the core of who we are,” said Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of Kind. “We’re pleased the FDA affirmed that Kind can put healthy back on our wrappers.”

In March 2015, the FDA issued a warning letter to Kind LLC, because the labels and labeling of KIND’s products bore a variety of nutrient content claims but the products did not meet the requirements to make such claims.

Following receipt of the closeout letter, Kind requested confirmation that it could use the phrase “healthy and tasty” only in text clearly presented as its corporate philosophy, where it isn’t represented as a nutrient content claim, and does not appear on the same display panel as nutrient content claims or nutrition information. In its discussions with Kind, the FDA said it understood the company’s position as wanting to use “healthy and tasty” as part of its corporate philosophy, as opposed to using “healthy” in the context of a nutrient content claim. The FDA evaluates the label as a whole and has indicated that in this instance it does not object.

Kind Healthy Snacks, New York, offers a family of snacks for a variety of occasions. Its recipes include nutrient-dense, simple and premium ingredients such as whole nuts, seeds, whole grains and pieces of fruit. All of Kind's snacks are gluten-free and do not contain genetically engineered ingredients.