Kevin Durant reportedly is barred from endorsing sugary products by company that makes sugary products


(Mark Humphrey / AP)

In March, NBA star Kevin Durant signed an endorsement deal with Kind, a company that makes snacks that “are pretty much the nirvana of healthful tastiness,” the company boasts on its Web site.

Kind doesn’t stop there:

“We believe if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it shouldn’t go into your body. Actually, it shouldn’t even go into your pantry. That’s why all KIND Healthy Snacks are made from all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains. No secret ingredients and absolutely nothing artificial here. Just a delicious way of getting your body essential nutrients like fiber, protein and antioxidants (to name a few).”

According to NBA blogger Chris Sheridan, in its zeal for clean-living celebrity endorsers, Kind apparently got some rather striking concessions out of Durant and his talent agency, Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Per a source, Sheridan wrote Monday that Durant “is prohibited from endorsing any food or drink product that contains sugar or preservatives” under the terms of his contract:

For the next three years, because of the contract language, you will not see Durant endorsing Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, or any of the other mass market behemoths that typically recruit athletes to endorse their products.

Basketball industry executives who have negotiated endorsement deals for other athletes said the language was unusually restrictive.

But is Durant barred from endorsing products containing sugar by a company that, in fact, sweetens its products with sugar? According to Kind’s Web site, the second ingredient in the company’s Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate bar is “evaporated cane juice.” In other words: sugar (which, it should be noted, is the ninth ingredient listed on the ingredients for the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate bar).

At least that’s the consensus of Dee McCaffrey, a certified diet counselor who writes on her Web site, Processed-Free America:

In the true sense of the term, “evaporated cane juice” or “evaporated cane sugar” would simply mean that the sugarcane juice has been evaporated, leaving  the sugar crystals with their nutrients still intact.  However,  that is not the case for the type of  “evaporated cane juice” that is being used in food products. According to the CEO of ASSURKKAR Sugar Company in Costa Rica, which provides raw sugar to U.S. companies, the term is wrongly used in the food industry, “prostituted” as he put it. “Nowadays the food companies are trying to sell more ‘natural’ products, so they use the most impressive or high impact wording to call the customer’s attention”, he said.

When it comes down to it, the kind of sugar that is wrongly called “evaporated cane juice” and white sugar are not much different. The subtle difference in composition between the two is simply the “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) has a smidge more vitamin A, C and calcium (in a 100 gram sample). However, neither of these amounts are anywhere near what exists in the natural sugar cane or the true form of evaporated cane juice, called Rapadura or Sucanat (more on that in a bit).

After looking over many different websites and spec sheets for the different types of sugar on the market, I discovered the only difference in the processes used to produce the wrongly called “evaporated cane juice” and white sugar on an industrial scale is that white sugar goes through one processing step more than evaporated cane juice. That’s the only difference. Both types of sugar come from the same crop (unless it’s organic), and they are both about 99 percent sucrose (meaning empty calories).

According to nutritional information provided by the company, Kind’s Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter bar contains eight grams of sugar. By eating just one, you’re getting about one-third of the recommended daily sugar allowance for a normal-weight adult, according to the World Health Organization.

Kind’s Dark Chocolate Chunk bar contains nine grams of sugar, as does the Vanilla Blueberry bar. The company’s Cinnamon Oat Clusters With Flax Seeds lists “dried cane syrup” as its second ingredient and has 10 grams of sugar per serving.

For comparison’s sake, one apple-flavored Pillsbury Toaster Strudel with icing has nine grams of sugar. One serving (3/4 of a cup) of Frosted Flakes contains 10 grams of sugar. One serving (three cookies total) of Chips Ahoy cookies contains 11 grams of sugar.

Last September, Gatorade did not renew Durant’s endorsement contract. In July, he signed an endorsement deal with Sparkling Ice, which makes zero-calorie sparkling water that doesn’t contain sugar but does contain, among other hard-to-pronounce ingredients, potassium benzoate, a chemical preservative that has been found to be carcinogenic under certain conditions. Durant also endorses products such as Sprint, BBVA, Panini, 2K Sports and Skullcandy, according to Forbes.

A voicemail left with Kind requesting comment was not immediately returned.

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