Yesterday, my wife came home from Whole Foods with a box of Back To Nature California Lemon Cookies. They're made with 100% natural ingredients, have really nice packaging that's made from 100% recycled paper, support the Nature Conservancy and they're pretty darn tasty.
I was reading their story on the package and saw their 50 year heritage, then looked at the short ingredient list on the label when I noticed the line "Distributed by: Back To Nature Foods Company, Madison, WI 53704 USA"
Now, I lived in Madison for 17 years, worked in advertising and knew just about every company in town that I might like to do business with. This is definitely one of them. So how is it that I never heard of them?
It turns out Back To Nature was quietly purchased by Kraft Foods in 2003 and based on the address on their website, the business is run out of Kraft's Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison. But you'd never know that by looking at the package.
It's a smart move by Kraft on a couple of fronts. First, putting Back To Nature in Madison, a town that boasts more Birkenstocks and bicycles per capita than just about any other place in the country gives the brand tons of counterculture cred. Second, downplaying the fact that it's a Kraft brand keeps the stink of corporate food off of it.
But still, this feels funny to me. Like they're hiding something. Especially when I read some of the consumers comments on their website, like this one from Kathy in PA...
"Incredible! 1,000x's better than Kraft chem-chem mac/cheese. I keep the single-serving cups at work. Just a microwave, water, and couple minutes gives you...presto...210 calories of heavenly satisfaction!"
It's pretty clear people have no idea that Kraft owns Back To Nature and think it's run by a small cadre of true believers who are using natural and organic ingredients and being good corporate citizens. My fear is that when they find out that Back To Nature is a division of Kraft and run out of the very same building where they make Oscar Mayer hot dogs, bologna, pimento loaf, and Lunchables, there will be some backlash.
Lying to your consumers is never a good idea, even a lie of omission. I'll be watching to see how this one plays out.