Kelly Brownell and his colleagues at the Rudd Center at Yale have produced another well researched – and in this case, gorgeously presented – report on the ways cereal companies market their products.
Even a quick look at its summary gives an unambiguous result: most of the marketing dollars are aimed at pushing sugary cereals at kids. Companies use TV and the Internet to push the least nutritious cereals.
None of this is particularly surprising but it’s great to have the data. Information about marketing budgets for specific products is hard to get. It is easy to understand why companies would rather nobody knew how much they spent to get kids to pester their parents to buy Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs.
Most troubling is the dual marketing. Advertising aimed at kids pushes sugar. Advertising aimed at parents uses health claims and self-endorsements like the late (and not lamented) Smart Choices program I discussed in previous posts.
Companies may argue that sugary cereals are good because they encourage kids to drink milk, but the Rudd Center researchers also have shown that kids are happy to eat non-sweetened cereals Furthermore, if they add their own sugar, they are putting in less than the cereal companies put in.
The bottom line: forget industry self-regulation. It doesn’t work.
FDA: it’s time to take on health claims.