by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Mar 3 2022

Infant formula marketing: an update

As the WHO/UNICEF report I posted yesterday makes clear, the marketing of infant formula—impossible for new mothers to avoid—interferes with breast feeding and, therefore, is a public health concern.

I posted about the Abbott Labs infant formula recall last week.

Here are some additional items I’ve collected on this topic.

I.  What the marketing looks like.

II.  Study finds no benefit of enriched infant formula on later academic performance: Children who are given nutrient or supplement enriched formula milk as babies do not appear to have higher exam scores as adolescents than those fed with standard formula, suggests a study published by The BMJ, leading researchers to argue renewed regulation is needed to better control infant formula promotional claims…. Read more

III.  IBFAN, the International Baby Foods Action Network, writes that it is:

launching a PETITION calling for an immediate halt to a new study  –  funded by the Gates Foundation and led by researchers from the University of California – that is randomly allocating infant formula to breastfeed in low-birth-weight babies in Uganda and Guinea-Bissau on assumption that this might prevent wasting and stunting.

The study, which has been cleared by ethics committees in the USA, Uganda and Guinea -Bissau – uses purchased ready-to-use infant formula made by Abbott, a US pharmaceutical corporation operating in 160 countries.  Abbott is a major violator of the International Code and is currently at the centre of a media storm in the USA because of contamination in its powdered formula. (NB. The formula used in the trial is liquid Ready-to-Feed).

IV.  IBFAN issued an earlier statement: The baby food industry’s destruction of an irreplaceable natural resource.

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted forty years ago by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy setting body…Today 70% of countries have adopted laws based on the Code, however far too many are limited in scope and full of loopholes as a result of industry interference. As a consequence predatory marketing of baby food products continues throughout the world.  and the global Baby Food Drink Market is forecast to rise more than 30% in 5 years (from $68bn in 2020 to $91.5bn by 2026)….Aside from its crucial role in child survival (more than 800,000 children die each year because they are not breastfed and many more do not reach their full potential, ­­ breastfeeding is the most environmentally friendly way to feed an infant, resulting in zero waste, minimal greenhouse gases, and negligible water footprint. As a renewable natural food resource, mother’s milk makes an important contribution to local food and water security.the baby food industry lost no time in exploiting the fear and confusion during the pandemic: falsely claiming their products build immunity; that their  ‘donations’ are humanitarian; encouraging the needless separation of mothers and babies and pretending that they are essential ‘partners’ who are genuinely working to address the problems.

V.  The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) assesses nine formula companies’ adherence to WHO recommendations.  Its report is here.

According to its press release,

Despite the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopting ‘The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes’ forty years ago and passing 18 associated resolutions since (collectively referred to as ‘The Code’), the BMS/CF Marketing Index 2021 found that none of the companies it assessed fully abides by The Code’s recommendations and most fall well short.

The summary: 

  • Danone retained first place with a score of 68%, up from its 2018 score of 46%
  • Nestlé, the market leader in sales value, retained its second place with a score of 57% – also a substantial improvement on its score of 45% in 2018
  • KraftHeinz achieved the greatest improvement, ranking third, with a score of 38% compared to in 2018 when it didn’t score at all
  • Reckitt (previously RB) substantially improved its BMS Marketing policies which led to a big jump in its score from 10% in 2018 to 32% in 2021 and climbing one place to fourth in the ranking.

VI.  A study: Conflicts of interest are harming maternal and child health: time for scientific journals to end relationships with manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes.  Pereira-Kotze C, et al.  BMJ Global Health. 2022 Feb;7(2):e008002. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-008002

The promotion and support of breastfeeding globally is thwarted by the USD $57 billion (and growing) formula industry that engages in overt and covert advertising and promotion as well as extensive political activity to foster policy environments conducive to market growth. This includes health professional financing and engagement through courses, e-learning platforms, sponsorship of conferences and health professional associations and advertising in medical/health journals…journal publishers may consciously, or unconsciously, favour corporations in ways that undermine scientific integrity and editorial independence—even perceived conflicts of interest may tarnish the reputation of scientists, organisations or corporations.  Such conflicts have plagued infant and young child nutrition science for decades.

Comment: As I mentioned yesterday, we now have more than enough evidence to put a stop to this.

Nov 23 2021

The Dietary Guidelines as a marketing opportunity

You might think of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as federal nutrition advice about how to eat healthfully but to some food companies it’s a marketing opportunity.

FoodNavigator-USA.com writes that the new guidelines for children under age 2 are a “treasure map” for Gerber, a leading baby food manufacturer.

the guidelines underscore the need for products that help babies consume sufficient iron, vitamin D and other nutrients of concern, safely introduce potential allergens, cut back on added-sugar, and cultivate diverse palate preferences to ensure healthy dietary preferences and reduce the risk of picky eaters later.\nInnovative, iron-enriched products need to boost consumption.

How does this work?

One of the main messages in the Dietary Guidelines is to provide infants and young children with sufficient iron.

Gerber to the rescue!

All you have to do is “feed children two servings of infant cereal a day.”

I still vote for feeding kids real food….

Jul 21 2021

UK Government to restrict TV and online junk food ads to kids (by the end of 2022)

The UK government is actively trying to promote healthier diets.

On June 24, the British government announced:  Introducing further advertising restrictions on TV and online for products high in fat, salt and sugar [HFSS]: government response

Rationale: “Current advertising restrictions for HFSS products during children’s TV and other programming of particular appeal to children are insufficient to protect children from seeing a significant amount of unhealthy food adverts on TV, and do not account for the increasing amount of time children spend online. Analysis from September 2019 demonstrated that almost half (47.6%) of all food adverts shown over the month on ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky1 were for HFSS products and this rises to nearly 60% during the 6pm to 9pm slot.”

Research basis: The Advertising Standards Authority’s  position paper on Advertising to Children.

The final policy

  • By the end of 2022, establish a 9:00 pm TV watershed for HFSS products [meaning this applies until 9:00 p.m.] as well as restrict paid-for HFSS advertising online.
  • The HPSS ad watershed applies to all on-demand programme services (ODPS) under the jurisdiction of the UK.
  • The restriction of paid-for HGSS ads onlinealso  applies to non-UK regulated ODPS.
  • The policy will be evaluated 5 years post implementation, in 2027.

Critique

From the food industry: Will the UK’s junk food marketing clampdown combat childhood obesity?  The UK Government announced plans to limit the advertising of unhealthy foods last week. The food and advertising industries expressed ‘disappointment’ at ‘draconian’ measures, while health campaigners welcomed the news but voiced concern over possible future loopholes. With so many complex and interlinked issues driving childhood obesity rates, the most important question remains: Will it work?… Read more 

From The Guardian: “UK government’s plans for pre-9 pm ban on junk food TV adverts criticised,”

Government plans to restrict junk food advertising on television and online have been criticised by campaigners who say they contain too many exemptions to affect rising levels of obesity in the UK.

The new rules, which were announced on Thursday and come into force from the end of next year, will ban adverts for products deemed to be high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) before the 9pm watershed. Paid-for ads on sites including Facebook and Google by big brands will also be banned.

However, the government has allowed numerous exceptions and carve-outs. Companies will be able to show marketing on their own websites and social media accounts. The restrictions will not apply to marketing by smaller companies of fewer than 250 employees.

So: Are these policies a force for good?  For this, we will have to wait and see.

But all measures aimed at restricting food marketing to children are worth considering, and the UK government is at least taking the issue somewhat seriously.

Tomorrow: The UK’s new Food Strategy Report.

Jul 8 2021

Marketing fast food to kids, especially minority kids

The Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut issued a press release for its latest report on fast food marketing:

New Study Finds Fast-Food Companies Spending More on Advertising, Disproportionately Targeting Black and Latino Youth

The fast-food industry spent $5 billion on advertising in 2019, and the advertisements disproportionately targeted Black and Latino youth, according to new research published today by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The new report, Fast Food FACTS 2021, finds that the industry’s annual ad spending in 2019 increased by over $400 million since 2012, and that children and teens were viewing on average more than two fast food TV ads per day.

The report provides details on spending amounts.

It also breaks spending down by target:

And it gives many examples of the ways fast food companies market to kids:

Isn’t it time to put a stop to this?

The report offers suggestions for voluntary actions, but that seems like a waste of time; companies are not going to voluntarily stop marketing to kids.  Way too much money is involved.

The Rudd Center also has lots of recommendations.

I’d start with this one:

The U.S. federal government should eliminate unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children as a tax-deductible corporate expense.

Jun 25 2021

Weekend reading: Big Food, Big Tech, and Global Democracy

The Center for Digital Democracy has issued a report, Big Tech and Big Food.

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a dramatic increase in online use. Children and teens whose schools have closed relied on YouTube for educational videos, attending virtual classes on Zoom and Google Classroom, and flocking to TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram for entertainment and social interaction. This constant immersion in digital culture has exposed them to a steady flow of marketing for fast foods, soft drinks, and other unhealthy products, much of it under the radar of parents and teachers. Food and beverage companies have made digital media ground zero for their youth promotion efforts, employing a growing spectrum of new strategies and high-tech tools to penetrate every aspect of young peoples’ lives.

The full report is divided into five parts (annoyingly, there is no table of contents and page numbers are almost invisible):

1.  The data-driven media and marketing complex (starts on page 8).

Today’s youth are at the epicenter of an exploding digital media and marketing landscape. Their deep connection to technology and their influence on purchasing are fueling the growth of new platforms, programs, and services, and generating a multiplicity of marketing opportunities. Google has created a global business offering videos and channels that target children and other young people who are attracted by its entertainment and educational content.

2.  This describes how Big Food targets kids using digital media (page 17)

3.   This part talks about threats to kids’ health, privacy, and autonomy (page 38)

4.  The growing momentum for regulation (is it ever needed) (page 42)

5.  This section lays out a framework for creating a healthier digital environment for kids (page 47)

The report is chilling.  It makes cartoons on breakfast cereals look so last century.  I could not believe the sophistication of these digital marketing efforts, all aimed at getting kids to demand junk foods.

Some congressional leaders are on this.  They deserve support.

You don’t think this is an urgent issue?  Read the report.

Here are a few news stories about this report.

Jun 22 2021

Annals of food marketing: Gay Pride kids’ cereal

Kellogg has issued a new cereal in honor of gay pride month.

Kelloggs Together With Pride Cereal Limited Edition Factory Fresh Box

And here’s what’s on the back.

The side panel gives examples of pronoun options (he/him, she/her, they/them, or add your own).  The top panel is a wrist band on which you can write your own pronouns.

I collect cereal boxes and didn’t want to miss this one.  I could not find it in any of the supermarkets I’ve been to.  I bought this one online,.

But now that I have it, I am not sure what to make of it.

On the one hand: It’s a partnership with GLAAD.  It promotes acceptance, and opposes bullying.  Hard to argue with that.  It also recognizes the market power of the pride community—but to what end?

On the other: This is a sugary, ultra-processed cereal, aimed at kids, no less.

  • The sugars: One serving has 12 grams of added sugars, accounting for 24% of the upper daily limit for sugars and 37% of the calories in this cereal.
  • Ultra-processed: This is the term for food products that are industrially produced, bear little resemblance to the foods from which they were derived, are made with ingredients that can’t be duplicated in home kitchens, are formulated to be “addictive” (“You can’t eat just one”), and are highly profitable.  Overwhelmingly, research shows these products to be associated with excessive calorie intake, weight gain, and chronic disease.
  • Marketed to kids: The cartoon characters signal this.  Kids’ cereals are brightly colored (e.g., Froot Loops), sugary, and marketed with cartoon characters.

Non-binary kids, like all kids, should be eating such cereals in small amounts, if at all.

I was curious to see what the press had to say about it—not nearly as much as I expected.

From where I sit, Kellogg is using gay pride to market its cereals.  This is about marketing.  Period.

Apr 7 2021

The vintage Coke parody ad strikes again

A reader, Ken Kaszak, sent me a link to a post on Quora Digest featuring this “advertisement,” which I put in quotes because it is not, in fact, an actual Coca-Cola ad; it is a joke at Coca-Cola’s expense.

I know this because I wrote about it in Soda Politics.  For starters, the ad says it is produced by “The Soda Pop Board,” but no such trade association exists.  Here’s the page from Soda Politics.

I included a footnote that explains where this parody came from: “The origins of the Parody ad are explained by Dryznar J. Favor from clever dudes, March 4, 2004. http://jdryznar.livejournal.com/64477.html.  The “Not parody” image was constructed from information from AND at www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors.  The parody ad was created by RJ White, as he explains at http://rjwhite.tumblr.com/post/472668874/fact-checking.  It was posted at The City Desk: Fictional Urbanism.  http://thecitydesk.net/baby_soda_ad.”

Once something like this starts going around, there’s no stopping it, not least because this ad seems so plausible, given the kinds of marketing I describe in my book.

Remember these?  They were for real, but fortunately are not around any more.  Parents who used these bottles put in them what was on the labels.

 

 

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!