by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-marketing

Jun 26 2020

Weekend reading: marketing of sugary drinks to minorities

The COVID-19 pandemic has pointed out how the higher risk of complications and death among members of minority groups.  The reasons are fairly well established.  Members of minority groups are more likely to:

  • Be overweight
  • Have diet-related risk factors: hypertension, type-2 diabetes, multiple metabolic problens
  • Live in high-pollution areas
  • Have asthma
  • Suffer from the daily stress of discrimination
  • Lack sick leave benefits
  • Have poor health care

The .latest report from Rudd Center on Food and Obesity Policy, Sugary Drinks FACTS 2020, highlights how sellers of sugary drinks target their products to minority populations.  The press release says that the report found:

  • In 2018, companies spent $84 million to advertise regular soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV, an increase of 8% versus 2013 and 80% versus 2010.
  • Sports drink brands disproportionately advertised on Spanish-language TV, dedicating 21% of their TV advertising budgets to Spanish-language TV, compared to 10% on average for all sugary drinks.
  • Compared to White children and teens, Black children saw 2.1 times as many sugary drink ads and Black teens saw 2.3 times as many. Black youth exposure was particularly high for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks.

Click here for the full report. 

The report’s main finding:

CNN has an excellent account of this, in which I am quoted.

Experts say soda companies have also taken a page out of the tobacco industry’s marketing playbook, by providing funding for many Black communities and endeavors “in ways that don’t look like advertising, like funding playgrounds in minority neighborhoods, minority community groups, and sponsorship of Black and Hispanic sports figures,” said Marion Nestle, who also authored “Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.”  “These work,” Nestle said. “Minority kids identify soda brands with sports figures, and minority community groups find it hard to oppose soda company marketing when the companies have been so generous.”
The account refers to the CEO of Pepsi’s statement on the company’s efforts to address race.  I am quoted again:
“The great irony of Ramon Laguarta’s promises to counter PepsiCo’s conscious or unconscious racist practices in the company, its business, and communities is that none of them addresses targeted marketing,” said Nestle.
“The best thing Pepsi could do to improve the health of its customers would be to stop advertising and marketing to children and teenagers, especially those of color,” Nestle added.
Addition, June 29
US Right to Know also has an excellent article on this topic.
Jun 23 2020

Food companies respond to #BlackLivesMatter—and about time!

Here’s progress, and about time too.  This long called for, and long overdue decision has been covered by CNN (6/17), New York Times (6/17), Food Dive (6/17), USA Today (6/18), and Reuters (6/18).

CPG firms review, overhaul black brand mascots:  Following Quaker Oat’s decision to rebrand its Aunt Jemima line, the parent companies of brands Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat — all of which have black mascots — have plans to change or review the brands’ logos and packaging. “[W]e are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” B&G Foods said about Cream of Wheat’s chef image in a statement.

PepsiCo’s CEO promises a complete overhaul:

So today, I am announcing the next step in PepsiCo’s journey for racial equality: a more than $400 million set of initiatives over five years to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo. These initiatives make up a holistic effort for PepsiCo to walk the talk of a leading corporation and help address the need for systemic change.

These changes are steps in the right direction.  To make them meaningful, companies must push for a cultural transformation and be willing to openly confront deeply embedded but sometimes unconscious attitudes and behavior.

Let’s hope these promises result in real change.

For some context, take a look at Toni Tipton-Martin’s, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cooking, and her article about the retirement of the image in Sunday’s New York Times.

And then there’s this perfect image for food politics (source unknown, alas):

Addition

A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes: “The removal of the Aunt Jemima image reminds me of artist Betye Saar’s 1972 assemblage, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.”  I see that Betye Saar has responded: “She’s liberated! Finally at long last!”

Jun 22 2020

The NCD Alliance has a map of industry marketing responses to Covid-19

The NCD [non-communicable disease] Alliance is a network of more than 2000 organizations in 170 countries.  Its purpose to to raise awareness of NCDs—type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and the like—among international agencies and to develop civil society capacity to prevent these conditions.

It has produced an interactive world map of examples of unhealthy industry responses to Covid-19.

Here’s an example from Jamaica.

This is an easy, one-stop shopping place to find out how food companies are exploiting Covid-19 to market products.

Make a note of it.

Jun 15 2020

Food brands making political statements

On Mondays, I like to start the week by highlighting ways that food companies are exploiting Covid-19 for marketing purposes.  But here’s Tejal Rao in the New York Times on exploitation of Black Lives Matter: “Food Brands Tweet #BlackLivesMatter, but What’s Behind the Words?”

She collected a group of examples on Twitter, from which she concludes:

As she explains, “All brand statements require some suspension of disbelief from the viewer, but particularly when they’re issued by fast-food companies during the coronavirus pandemic.”

My thought: If food companies really want to promote black lives, they can start with recruiting more employees of color, paying them higher wages, offering better sick leave and health care benefits, and supporting them with child care, education, training, and opportunities for career advancement.

Corporations did this for their employees at one time.  They can do it again.

May 28 2020

Tone deaf food company ads of the week: Are these for real? So it seems.

Here are two ads sent to me last week.  Both have now been taken down.

This one, according to reader Tony Vassallo (thanks!) comes from the Walmart Supercenter Store 908 at 8101 South John Young Parkway, Orlando FL.  I’m not the only one who thought this was in bad taste (sorry).   After a Twitter storm, Pepsi took it down.

But what about this one?

I looked up Westbrook Mall: Calgary, Alberta.  This too caused an uproar.   The franchise owner apologized, explaining that he was struggling and hoped to generate business, and the sign is now gone, apparently.

May 11 2020

Tone deaf food ad of the week: Kraft Heinz, this time

Thanks to a reader, Tony Vassallo, for sending this Kraft ad: “We Got You America

Given the demographics of who gets hit hardest by this virus, and increasing evidence that crowded food production facilities staffed by low-income workers who often lack sick leave and health care benefits, this unmasked cheerleading seems, well, tone deaf.

Apr 27 2020

Tone-deaf ad of the week: Whopper’s Couch Potato Patriots

Q.  If you are running a fast-food place, how to cope with having to close and lose sales during the Coronavirus pandemic?

A.  Run an ad: “Stay Home of the Whopper

Your country needs you to stay on your couch and order in…Do your part. Staying home doesn’t just make us all safer, it makes you a couch potatriot.”

Never mind that couch potatoism puts you at higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and, therefore, higher higher risk for the most damaging effects of this virus.

The company is also offering 250,000 free sandwiches to health care workers.

Thanks to a reader, who wished to remain anonymous, for alerting me to this one.

Sep 17 2019

Natural Products Expo: all boxes checked

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore on Saturday and worth the trip it was.

Here is where to see—and taste—what’s happening in health foods: ultra-processed (drinks, crackers, puffs) and not (nut butters, smoked fish).

Impressions

This is a huge market: the exhibits took up three full floors of two buildings in the convention center.  I think I only managed to wander through about half of them.

The big news is hemp.  An entire section of one of the floors was devoted to CBD oils, pills, and balms, but hemp booths were also scattered throughout.  I didn’t see many edibles—just a few gummy bears.

The buzz words are “all boxes checked.”  I heard this many times.  My favorite example: hemp water (“hydrate your body to the fullest”).  Here’s its list:

  • All natural
  • No artificial flavors
  • No THC
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Sugar free
  • Sodium free
  • Zero calories
  • Non-GMO
  • Vegan

Everyone wants to get into Whole Foods.  When I asked small producers where I could find their products, one after another said this.

Plant-based products are on the move.  I tried oat- and coconut-based ice creams (not bad, but still can’t compete with the 17% fat dairy versions, alas).