Michelle Obama is co-founding Plezi Nutrition, a company focusing on healthier food and beverage products for children. The company is prioritizing reducing sugar content and lowering sweetness while adding in the nutrients kids need, all with the goal of replacing sugar-laden drinks and snacks.
Plezi Nutrition's first product is a drink called Plezi. It has 75% less sugar than average leading fruit juices, no added sugar, plus fiber and nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and zinc. The beverage comes in Sour Apple, Blueberry Blast and Orange Smash flavors. The company plans to expand into additional beverages and snacks.
Along with the backing of the former first lady, Plezi Nutrition will benefit from growing interest among many consumers to watch what their children are eating and drinking amid high rates of obesity in the U.S.
During her time at the White House, Obama launched “Let’s Move!,” an initiative that promoted exercise and healthier eating for children. In joining Plezi, Obama is not only a co-founder but a strategic partner who said she will work behind the scenes to help the company's mission and model for how food and beverage brands can produce better-for-you offerings.
"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 Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival on Wednesday. "I'm proud to announce the national launch of a company designed not just to provide better products, but to jumpstart a race to the top that will transform the entire food industry."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20% of U.S. children and teens aged 2 to 19 are obese. The condition can contribute to several ailments, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
There also is concern kids are eating and drinking too many food and beverage offerings loaded with sugar that lack the nutrients they need.
The American Heart Associated noted children and young adults aged 2 to 19 years of age consume 16 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which comes to more than 53 pounds each year. The group noted that beverages, lead by soft drinks and fruit drinks, are responsible for nearly half of added sugars. This creates a prime opportunity for companies such as Plezi Nutrition.
In addition to its drink, the company will actively promote drinking water and eating whole fruits and vegetables. Obama announced a "Kitchen Cabinet" advisory group of experts in nutrition, public health and parenting who will guide and advise the company's educational efforts, as well as marketing approaches and product development.
The company’s first product, its namesake beverage Plezi, is intended to replace sugary drinks like soda and juice that do not support kids' health and to help promote healthier habits. It targets school-aged children ages 6 to 12 when drinking milk or water is more difficult. The challenge for the company will be to do that with a product that tastes good and is actually something children will want to consume, especially if they are used to offerings loaded with sugar.
Plezi’s first ingredient is water, and it also contains fruit juices and stevia leaf extract, The Wall Street Journal noted. The drinks have no added sugars, and about 35 calories per bottle.
The efforts to curtail sugar consumption and eat healthier has attracted the attention of small and big companies in the CPG arena. Eat the Change, a three-year-old startup making environmentally friendly, nutrient-dense snacks from carrots, mushrooms and other plant ingredients, was founded by Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman. Other smaller upstarts also have flooded the space.
Still, many large food and beverage companies have been criticized for not doing enough to make their products healthier despite efforts to curtail things like salt, sugar and saturated fat, while also introducing zero-sugar or more nutrient-rich products.
A study by the Access to Nutrition Initiative in 2022 found about 70% of all food and beverages are less “healthy,” and no big CPG gets a majority of its sales from “healthier” products. The group analyzed products and policies from the 11 largest companies in the U.S. food and beverage space, including Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kraft Heinz.