Kraft Foods has launched a campaign aimed at teaching Hispanic children and families about healthy lifestyles. But while Kraft focuses its attentions on a niche market, McDonald's has released its own health awareness programme to a much larger audience. Competitors will be watching the success of these contrasting initiatives carefully.

Over the last ten months, Kraft has been testing programmes to educate the country's fastest growing population about combating overweight and obesity. Directed at Latino families, the full-scale programme, Salsa, Sabor, y Salud, was officially launched this week. Through partnership with the National Latino Children's Institute (NLCI), Kraft's campaign hopes to teach Hispanic families about nutrition and health through an eight-session curriculum.

Kraft implemented Salsa, Sabor, y Salud, roughly translated as "Salsa, Flavour, and Health," in Chicago, San Antonio, Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark and select New Jersey counties, allowing Kraft to reach areas comprising nearly 40% of the country's 35.3 million Latinos. The pilot schemes in these areas are to be widened in scope with elements of the programme being included in school classes.

By focusing its attention on this niche market, Kraft is hoping not only to help fight the obesity battle, but also create brand awareness in a group expected to comprise 20% of the US population by 2020. By the end of 2004, the programme is expected to reach more than 5,000 children and 2,500 families in six states.

In contrast, McDonald's is eschewing niche marketing to target the country's obesity problem on a larger scale. Its most recent initiative launch, a nationwide "balanced lifestyle programme", focuses on food choices, education and promoting physical activity. Not aimed at any specific culture, it could potentially reach millions.

While it is true that McDonald's can leverage its purchase outlets, food manufacturer Kraft needs a partner such as NLCI to educate consumers directly on a one-to-one level. However, the slow rollout of what has been deemed a successful project is somewhat surprising. On the other hand, positive word of mouth among the Hispanic community is likely to play a huge role in spreading Kraft's message to a wider audience. Competitors will no doubt be watching brand awareness and consumption rates of the two first movers to see which approach they should consider.

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