by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Nov 24 2020

Digital marketing to children: two reports

The thing about digital marketing to kids is that parents hardly ever see it.  And it works.  Really well.

The first report comes from the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern.

The report comes with three issue briefs.

The second report comes from public health advocates in Australia, also about digital marketing on kids.

All of this is really happening.  Advocates: get to work!

Nov 17 2020

Let’s hear it for good food news: the British government wants to ban junk food marketing

Here’s the announcement in The Guardian: “UK to ban all online junk food advertising to tackle obesity:  ‘World-leading’ proposal delights health campaigners and dismays advertising industry.”

The tougher-than-expected rules came after Boris Johnson changed his view on personal health decisions following his coronavirus infection. Overweight people are at risk of more severe illness from Covid, or death. Research has found that one in three children leaving primary school are overweight, or obese, as are almost two-thirds of adults in England…If implemented, the ban would affect digital marketing, from ads on Facebook, to paid-search results on Google, text message promotions, and social media activity on Twitter and Instagram.

This refers to the UK government’s “New public consultation on total ban of online advertising for unhealthy foods.”   The details of the consultation are here.  The government wants comments on

  • what types of advertising will be restricted
  • who will be liable for compliance
  • enforcement of the restrictions

According to the BBC,

The plans will now be discussed by representatives from the food industry, members of the public and the government for six weeks, before a decision is made over whether the advert ban will happen or not.

Comment: I’ll bet this proposal does indeed ‘”dismays the advertising industry” and the food industry too.  Marketing is an enormous influence on food choice, particularly insidious because we don’t recognize marketing as such.  It’s just seen as part of the landscape and affects us at an unconscious level.  Marketing to children is especially egregious, especially because it is so effective in encouraging them to demand junk food.  Cheers to the UK government for this.  Stick with it!

Oct 30 2020

Food marketing effort of the weekend: Happy Halloween!

You might think that Halloween is—or was pre-Covid—a fun activity for your kids, but it’s underlying purpose is to sell candy, as much as possible to as many people as possible.  It’s a big part of total annual candy sales (Valentine’s Day is another).

Let’s start with The Counter’s account of how the candy industry convinced everyone to buy record-breaking amounts of candy, while public health authories were discouraging trick-or-treating.

Is it possible to trick-or-treat safely?  Suggestions:

What’s happening with Halloween in New York City?

ConfectionaryNews.com has produced a Special Edition: Fright night: How American candy companies are gearing up for Halloween

No doubt, Halloween is going to feel different this year, but as John Downs, president and CEO of the NCA [National Confectioners Association] says: “it isdefinitely happening!​”

In this special edition newsletter we focus on how the confectionery industry in the USA is preparing for one of its main holiday seasons.  Halloween is estimated to generate over $4bn in revenue for candy companies and while the festivities are going ahead, the emphasis is on staying safe and following guidelines.

To help consumers and its members prepare for this year’s event the NCA has launched its Halloween Central portal with up-to-date advice from top health experts on how to celebrate safely.  With online sales of candy soaring, we look at an innovative solution from Mars Wrigley with the launch of its virtual Treat Town app for those who are unable to join the outdoor fun this year.  We also report on how other big companies, including Hershey and Ferrero, intend to lift spirits this Halloween – and new kid on the block Stuffed Puffs completes our round-up with a spooky twist on a camp-fire classic.

Check-out the articles below to find out more – and have fun but stay safe this Halloween.

Oct 29 2020

“Healthy” kids food: an oxymoron?

Foods marketed to kids are an enormously profitable enterprise, but most foods marketed to kids are ultraprocessed junk foods.  Companies are scrambling to come up with profitable food items for kids that might actually be good for them.  Hence: “healthy” kids food.

By the way, kids don’t need special foods designed for them; they are perfectly capable of eating anything that adults eat, cut or smashed to size and in smaller portions, of course.

This collection of articles is from FoodNavigator.com, an industry newsletter that I find highly informative.

Special Edition: Healthy kids food

From fussy eaters, to early years nutrition, allergies and healthy snacks for kids, we take a look at the latest developments in children’s food and profile innovation for the next generation.

And while we are on the subject of “healthy” kids foods, what about what General Mills is doing?

General Mills is bringing back its classic recipes for four of its cereals: Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams, Cookie Crisp and Trix, according to a release. This reformulation back to retro ’80s recipes is permanent and is now available at retailers nationwide.

Just what kids do not need.  Sigh.

Feb 19 2020

Formula companies push “toddler milk”

Formula companies must be desperate for sales.  They are spending four times what they used to on advertising of “toddler milk,” formula ostensibly aimed at children who no longer need infant formula and are perfectly capable of eating real food.

So says a new study in the journal Public Health Nutrition.  The study comes from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, now at the University of Connecticut in Hartford, a group specializing in research to inform policy.

The report points out that increasing sales of toddler formula come at a time when pediatric authorities specifically recommend against feeding toddler milks to young children.

Why?  Because young kids do not need them and the milks contain unnecessary added sugars.

As the paper points out, “These findings also support the need to regulate marketing of toddler milks in countries that prohibit infant formula marketing to consumers.”

The advertising of toddler milks gets around those policies and should stop.  Right now.

Aug 9 2019

Annals of Marketing: A Sugary Cereal for Toddlers

Coming soon to a supermarket near you: Baby Shark cereal.

I am so out of it.  I never heard of the song, Baby Shark, before seeing this story about Kellogg’s new cereal—aimed at toddlers.

The song, I gather, is adored by babies, less so by their parents, but never mind: it is expected to sell lots of cereal.

I searched for a Nutrition Facts label online, but could not find one (the cereal won’t be available until mid-September, apparently.

I did see this at the bottom corner of the box:

One and one-third cup of this stuff provides 150 calories, 190 mg of sodium, and 15 grams of sugars.  Oh great, 40% of calories from sugars.

Another sugary cereal for kids, this one for little kids!

Do food companies market directly to children?  Yes, they do.

Jan 30 2019

Guess what: advertising to kids sells food products

It never occurred to me that we needed more research to prove that advertising to kids makes them want food products, pester their parents to buy the products, say they like the products, and actually eat the products.

That was the conclusion of a hugely important study from the Institute of Medicine in 2006.

You can download that report from the link.  It’s still worth reading.

Obviously, the points it made still need reinforcing.  Hence: this study.

Exposure to Child-Directed TV Advertising and Preschoolers. Intake of Advertised Cereals. Jennifer A. Emond, Meghan R. Longacre, Keith M. Drake, et al.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, December 17, 2018.

The authors measured whether exposure to TV advertisements for kids’ breakfast cereals affected pre-schoolers’ intake of those cereals.

No surprise.  It did.

In this figure, the dots to the right of the vertical line indicate increased intake of the cereals after exposure to the ads.

I’d say the ads are doing what marketers hope they will do (except for Honey Nut Cheerios).  Ads for Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles seem particularly effective.

The authors point out that food companies say they are no longer marketing to children under the age of six.  Obviously, they still are.

This is what parents are up against.  What to do?

Turn off the TV!  Call for regulation!

Nov 23 2018

WHO Europe report on marketing junk foods to kids: not much progress

Nobody should be surprised by the results of the latest WHO report on the lack of progress in curbing the marketing of highly processed junk foods to children.

 

The report looks at marketing policies across WHO Europe’s member countries.  The data show that while about half the countries have taken some steps to limit junk food marketing to kids, even these steps do not go nearly far enough.

Actions focus mainly on

  • Advertising but ignore other methods for reaching children.
  • Children up to age 12 or 13, but not others.

The report notes the need for more consistent definitions and regulations across the various countries, especially with respect to digital media.

The report documents the negative effects of highly processed foods on kids’ health.  It also documents the uphill nature of addressing this problem.

From the standpoint of the food industry, marketing to children in the line in the sand.  They cannot stop marketing to kids and still sell junk foods aimed at kids.

The report provides plenty of evidence for food companies’ prioritizing profit over public health.