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Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006 10:01 pm

A sweet fix

Krispy Kreme takes a cue from Big Tobacco

Untitled Document Krispy Kreme’s plump, sugar-sweet doughnuts were hotter than frying oil just a few years ago. Celebrities lined up to invest in franchises, and the media gushed that these sweet-treat purveyors were foodie angels. Ah, but that was then, and this is now — and Krispy Kreme’s little dough blobs have suddenly turned satanically stale as a food phenomenon. The corporation has seen its stock price sink from $50 a share to less than $9 as its sales have sagged and health officials in Chicago and New York have sought to ban the artificial trans-fatty acids used to make the product. So, has the corporation responded by eliminating its unhealthy ingredients? Of course not. Instead, Krispy Kreme has taken the old path of denial and dissembling blazed years ago by the tobacco giants. The doughnut chain has even brought two former tobacco executives into its top management ranks, where they are directing its damage-control campaign. The execs are expected to bring to doughnuts the same aggressive strategies that were used to glaze over the problems of cigarettes. Wall Street analysts, who had cheered on the disgusting marketing tactics of the tobacco executives, are now applying their same skewed ethical compass to Krispy Kreme’s troubles. Applauding the company’s hiring of skilled image fixers, one analyst declared that such a move is essential when health groups are trying “to ban the main product you sell.”
     There they go again. Health advocates are not trying to ban the doughnuts — just the unhealthy trans-fatty acids that Krispy Kreme uses. They could switch to a heart-healthy oil, as other food companies are doing. Message to Krispy Kreme: Instead of dumping money into image fixers from Tobacco World and trying to dupe customers, just fix your product and be honest with customers.  
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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