Michelle Obama launches healthy food and drink brand for kids16 May 2023
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama is entering the consumer packaged goods space with Plezi Nutrition, a new healthy food and beverage brand for children.
Plezi’s first product is a line of low-sugar juice drinks, and the brand has plans to expand with additional beverage and snack products. The launch was announced at The Wall Street Journal's Future Of Everything Festival earlier this month in New York City.
The company said it is “on a mission to create higher standards for how the US makes and markets food and beverages for kids, leading with nutrition, taste, and truth”.
Plezi products will contain less sugar than competitors “to help adjust kids' palates to crave less sweetness overall,” as well as add more nutrients that children need.
Changing the industry from the inside out
On average, kids in the US consume about 53 pounds of sugar per year, Plezi said, a problem driven by the plethora of sugary drinks marketed to children. The first Plezi drinks have 75% less sugar than average fruit juices on the market, and contain fibre, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Obama is a co-founder and strategic partner with Plezi, “working behind-the-scenes to guide the company's mission to be a driver of change and a model for how food and beverage brands can support the health of our next generation”.
"I've learned that on this issue, if you want to change the game, you can't just work from the outside. You've got to get inside—you've got to find ways to change the food and beverage industry itself," Obama said at the Future of Everything Festival.
The company will be advised by a group of experts in nutrition, public health and parenting to guide Plezi’s educational efforts, marketing approaches and product development.
Plezi's Sour Apple flavour | © Plezi Nutrition
Plezi drinks are currently available in four flavours, Tropical Punch, Orange Smash, Sour Apple and Berry Blast, and sold at Target and Sprouts stores and online at Walmart.
Following the launch, Juggernaut Capital Partners, a private equity investor in the consumer and healthcare sectors, announced an investment in Plezi for an undisclosed amount.
The legacy of Let’s Move!
During her time as First Lady, Obama dedicated much of her work to children’s nutrition. She launched the Let’s Move! initiative in February 2010 with the goal of ending childhood obesity within one generation. Let’s Move! kicked off with a federal task force dedicated to childhood obesity.
In her 2018 memoir Becoming, Obama said that this resulted in major corporate suppliers of school lunches pledging to cut the amount of salt, sugar and fat in their meals, and the American Beverage Association improving the clarity of its ingredient labelling.
“We had plans to help bring greengrocers into urban neighbourhoods and rural areas known as ‘food deserts,’ to push for more accurate nutritional information on food packaging, and to redesign the aging food pyramid to be more accessible and in line with current research on nutrition,” Obama said in Becoming.
The former First Lady also helped push a child nutrition bill through Congress in 2010 that expanded access to healthy, high-quality food for children in public schools, and increased the reimbursement rate for federally subsidised meals.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act added more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy to school lunches, regulated the products that could be sold in school vending machines and granted funding to schools for planting gardens.
Plezi's Tropical Punch flavour | © Plezi Nutrition
Despite these achievements, Let’s Move! failed to decrease childhood obesity in the US, which still affected 19.7% of children as of 2020. However, Obama’s efforts with the campaign involved working with major food and beverage companies, which put her on the path to launching Plezi.
In addition to drink and snack products, Plezi will provide an educational platform for parents and kids that will promote content about what’s best for kids’ health.
“We’re hoping not just to provide healthier and delicious drinks and snacks for kids, but to jumpstart a race to the top that will transform the entire food industry. Because let’s face it, even after everything we accomplished during the White House years, it is still simply too hard for kids to grow up healthy,” Obama said on the Plezi website.
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