KIND bars claim to be healthy. The US government disagrees

An offensively high nut count.
An offensively high nut count.
Image: KIND
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This post has been updated.

If a snack bar has fruits, nuts, fiber, protein, fiber, and antioxidants, is it healthy? Not if it also has 5 grams of saturated fat, the US Food and Drug Administration has determined.

As described in a March 17 warning letter to Kind LLC CEO Daniel Lubetzky, the FDA has reviewed at least four flavors of KIND snack bars. “None,” it said, “meet the requirements for use of the nutrient content claim ‘healthy.'”

Kind’s products are getting increasingly popular in the $2.8 billion energy and nutrition bar business. While the market is still dominated by heavies like General Mills and Kellogg, analysts at Euromonitor expected Kind to notch sales growth of 82% in 2014, outstripping the research firm’s 14% growth forecast for the category overall.

The FDA had a laundry list of complaints about Kind’s packaging and website, including the company’s use of the “+” symbol and phrases such as ”antioxidant-rich,” a “Good Source of Fiber,” and “no trans fats.” Even the company information listed on the bars wasn’t to the agency’s satisfaction. “FDA is unable to determine the physical location of your firm using a city or telephone directory and the address listed on the label,” the letter said.

The agency also cited rules specifically restricting the use of the term “healthy” to foods with no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, comprising no more than 15% of the calories. The specific bars referenced—Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Fruit & Nut Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants—contained between 2.5 grams and 5 grams of saturated fat. (The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.)

“Our team at Kind is fully committed to working alongside the FDA, and we’re moving quickly to comply with its request,” the company said in a statement on its web site. “We’re also taking it upon ourselves to conduct a thorough review of all of our snack food labels and website information to ensure that they’re compliant.”

Kind also told Quartz, “Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard. There is an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supporting that nuts are wholesome and nutritious. This is similar to other foods that do not meet the standard for use of the term healthy, but are generally considered to be good for you like avocados, salmon and eggs. Our team at KIND is fully committed to working alongside the FDA, and we’re moving quickly to comply with its request.”

This article has been updated with further comments with from Kind.