by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Nov 7 2016

WHO Europe takes on food marketing to children

The World Health Organization’s Europe branch has issued a brave new report: Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives (2016)


I say brave because marketing to children is the food industry’s line in the sand.
Food and beverage companies will not stop marketing to children because doing so will hurt their bottom lines too much.

WHO Europe makes eight recommendations, all of them highly political:

1. Acknowledge States’ duty to protect children online with statutory regulation
2. Extend offline protections online
3. Define legal age, rather than leaving commercial interests to do so
4. Define marketing directed to children
5. Draw on existing legislation, regulation and regulatory agencies
6. Compel private Internet platforms to remove marketing of foods high in saturated fat, salt and/ or free sugars
7. Develop appropriate sanction and penalty mechanisms
8. Devise cross-border international responses

The report’s conclusion:

Children’s participation in digital media should not, however, be predicated on receiving digital HFSS [high in saturated fats, salt and/or free sugars] advertising. Digital marketing can amplify the power of earlier marketing practices by identifying and targeting more vulnerable populations with sophisticated analytics and creating engaging, emotion-focused, entertaining ways to reach children.

Nor should children’s digital participation be predicated on “devolving” consent to parents, which is akin to States expecting parents to completely prohibit their children from watching all television in order to avoid HFSS marketing, rather than implementing broadcast regulations.

Instead, States and supra-national actors should devise ways to allow children to participate in the digital world without being targeted by marketers with immersive, engaging, entertaining marketing of products that have been demonstrated to be injurious to their health.

Now if governments would just listen….

Nov 4 2016

Weekend reading: Rudd Center report on baby food marketing

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the Univeristy of Connecticut  produces terrific reports.  The latest is Baby Food FACTS: Nutrition and marketing of baby and toddler foods and drinks:

 

Infant formula companies have a marketing problem: breast milk is a better option, all formulas have the same nutrient composition by FDA regulation, and babies only need to use formula for a few months.

Baby food companies also have a marketing problem: babies can eat table foods (suitably ground or cut) and don’t really need the stuff in jars (convenient thought they may be).

The Rudd Center report takes a good hard look at the

  • Contents of food and drink products marketed to parents for their babies and toddlers (up to age 3)
  • The marketing messages used to promote these products
  • Degree to which marketing messages correspond with expert advice on feeding young children

The findings: The nutritional quality is pretty much as advertised but nearly 60 percent of advertising dollars go for products that are not recommended for young children such as sugar-sweetened toddler milk, nutritionally poor snack food, and Pediasure, a high-calorie liquid nutrition supplement.

Here’s the full report 

And here’s a summary

Mar 30 2016

Issue Brief on use of branded characters to market to kids

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a new Issue Brief on food companies’ use of branded characters to market to kids.  Here’s what it’s talking about:

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These, RWJ says, work better with junk foods than healthy foods, even though some child health advocates have called for their use only for healthy foods.

I don’t want them used to sell anything to kids.  I don’t think anyone should be marketing anything to kids.

RWJ’s assessment of the present situation?  “Significant opportunities for improvement still exist.”

No kidding.

Feb 2 2016

Food-Navigator’s Special Edition: Food for kids!

I greatly enjoy Food-Navigator’s collections of articles on specific topics.  Here’s one on marketing foods to kids.

While there is some evidence that the tide may now be turning on childhood obesity, 8.4% of US 2-5 year-olds; 17.7% of 6-11 year-olds and 20.5% of 12-19-year-olds are still obese, and many are lacking in essential nutrients from potassium, dietary fiber and calcium, to vitamin D. So how can the food industry respond to these concerns and develop more nutritious, but appealing snacks, meals and beverages for kids?

Addition, February 3: A reader reminds me that Food-Navigator published a guide to creating successful children’s brands a couple of months ago.

Aug 28 2015

Weekend reading: Vanessa Domine’s Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools

Vanessa Domine.  Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Can Renew Education in the United States.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Image result for Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools

Here’s my blurb:

If you are not concerned about the effects of exposure to electronic media on the health of teenagers, you should be.   This book presents a well-researched, highly compelling case for the urgent need for media literacy education to be incorporated into school wellness programs as soon as possible.

For information about how online marketing affects kids’ food choices, take a look at the work of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, particularly in media advocacy training.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also has resources about online marketing to kids (scroll down for a list).

Apr 9 2015

Consumer advocates petition FTC to keep junk food advertising out of YouTube for Kids

A coalition of children’s and consumer advocacy groups (see list below) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charging that Google’s new YouTube Kids app violates restrictions on marketing junk foods to kids.

The coalition’s letter to the FTC details the charges.  YouTube Kids, it says:

  • Intermixes advertising and programming in ways that deceive young children.
  • Features “branded channels” for McDonald’s, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and other companies.
  • Distributes “user-generated” segments that feature toys, candy, and other products without disclosing the business relationships.

The Washington Post gives some examples:

On the American Greetings’ Strawberry Shortcake channel, for instance, a 37-second video features the red-haired doll describing the company’s “Food Fair” app, where characters pick ingredients for recipes. At the end, a banner appears showing the app can be downloaded on iTunes. McDonald’s has a 7-minute video dispelling myths about the contents of Chicken McNuggets. On another video, a deep-voiced announcer warns, “All vegetarians, foodies and gastronauts, kindly avert your eyes,” with a slow-cam close up of a juicy Big Mac. “You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa.”

Here’s the Coalition list: the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Corporate Accountability International, and Public Citizen.

This will be fun to watch.  Stay tuned.

Mar 23 2015

Critical Public Health: special issue on “Big Food”:

With Simon Williams, I have just co-edited a special issue of Critical Public Health: “Big Food”: Critical perspectives on the global growth of the food and beverage industry.”

Here’s what’s in it.

Editorial

Research

Commentaries

  • Big Food’ and ‘gamified’ products: promotion, packaging, and the promise of fun, by Charlene Elliott.
  • Food as pharma: marketing nutraceuticals to India’s rural poor, by Alice Street.

Thanks to Simon Williams for initiating (and doing the heavy lifting on) this project, and to all the terrific contributors.

Enjoy!

 

Jan 20 2015

The latest report on food marketing to kids: Healthy Eating Research

Healthy Eating Research (HER), a group sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has just released a report on food marketing to kids, an issue brief with recommendations, and an Infographic summarizing the report’s major points.

The recommendations are aimed at the food industry’s voluntary guidelines for what and how junk foods can be marketed to kids.  These are famously weak and HER set out to tweak them to make the recommendations stronger.

This report provides an excellent summary of what’s wrong with marketing to kids.

But its recommendations are disappointing.  Here they are from the Infographic:

Picture1These are undoubtedly too small for you to read and, in any case, are written so tentatively—they do not use the word “should”—that they require translation.  Here’s mine:

Guidelines for food marketing should apply to:

  • Kids age 14 or younger (not 11)
  • Audiences containing 25% or more of kids under age 14 (not 35%)
  • Both food products and brands (not just products).
  • All marketing aimed at kids, everywhere kids are (not just TV or Internet)

These are tweakings of voluntary guidelines.

I don’t see the point.  If we really want the food industry to stop marketing unhealthy foods and drinks to kids, the guidelines can’t be voluntary and tweakings are unlikely to help.

Food marketing to kids is flat-out unethical and should stop.

The industry will never do this voluntarily.

That’s the issue such reports need to address.

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