by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Jul 24 2008

coca-cola doesn’t market to kids (at least in Canada)?

My Canadian correspondent, Yoni Freedhoff, tells me (and his blog readers) that Coca-Cola has an ad in the Canadian Medical Journal assuring doctors that the company has not marketed its products to children for the last 50 years.  This is news to me.  Aren’t you happy to know this?

Jun 11 2008

Nestlé Corp. refuses to stop marketing junk foods to kids

The giant food company, Nestlé (no relation), says it will not join the food industry’s voluntary efforts to stop marketing junk foods to kids.   Why not?  Here’s one guess: maybe the company doesn’t want to make promises it knows it can’t keep.

May 2 2008

Nestlé (no relation) advertises to kids, cleverly

I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area giving a bunch of talks. An agricultural engineer who works for USDA – and must have sneaked off work to come to one of them yesterday – tells me that if you look up the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) schedule, you get a message from Nestlé’s Nesquik “inviting all BART riders to take the Chocolate Line to their own Happy Place on Sunday, May 4, 2008.” Cartoon characters! Free rides for kids! Yummy marketing!

Apr 21 2008

Oh great. Let’s ask kids what they like to eat.

So the British food industry has this brilliant idea: let’s ask kids what they like to eat. And, presumably, give it to them. The plan is to host a one-day conference for this purpose. I’m truly astonished. I thought food companies already invested fortunes in finding out what kids like.  Junk food, mostly.  So let’s give them credit for at least raising the possibility of healthier options.  I, of course, have this old-fashioned idea that kids don’t innately know what’s good for them and should only be offered healthy foods, which won’t help food companies much.

Apr 21 2008

Marketing to kids: a good review

Mary Story, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has done terrific work on revealing the extent of food marketing to children, gave the first annual Michael & Susan Dell Distinguished Lecture in child health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Austin, just a year ago on April 13, 2007. But now her slides – full of interesting tidbits and data – are online for viewing and well worth a look.

Apr 10 2008

Do bans on food marketing work?

Canadian food companies argue that there is no point in banning food marketing to kids because the bans don’t keep kids from becoming obese. Maybe, but I’m just back from the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue in Washington, DC, a conference in which officials from Canada and Europe discussed what they were doing to address childhood obesity on the policy level. In a word–European countries are taking the challenge seriously and are doing a lot more than we are. I was most impressed by a report about Quebec, which banned marketing to kids in 1982. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but rates of childhood obesity are lower in Quebec than in any other Canadian province. But so are fast food sales so it’s no wonder food companies are upset.

Apr 3 2008

Marketing junk food to kids: new research

The April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association carries three research papers on the current state of food marketing to children. One finds that websites targeted to kids carry advertising for junk foods. One compared breakfast cereals marketed to children to those marketed to adults; the kids’ cereals had more calories, sugars, and salt but less fiber and protein (oh, great). The third looked at Saturday morning TV and found 90% of the food commercials to be for junk foods. Hmm. Doesn’t sound like much has changed since the Institute of Medicine’s call for stopping all this (or at least slowing it down). Time to hold food companies accountable, I think.

Mar 21 2008

Will bans on marketing food to kids do any good?

In trying to figure out what to do about childhood obesity, the comments on the recent post raise issues worth pondering. Anna, for example, points out that food ads are banned in Norway but that kids are still getting fatter (although to a lesser extent than in the U.S.). She writes: “I just don’t think it [the ban] makes enough of a difference, even if it seems like a good idea on some fronts. It is the larger culture of commercialism and consumerism that surrounds children in Westernized countries, and if Norway can’t regulate commercial influences away, the US certainly can’t.”

Maybe not, but this view leads to two possibilities for dealing with childhood obesity on the policy level.  One is to do nothing (because doing something won’t do any good anyway).    The other, which I prefer, is to start taking actions, one at a time, in the hope of creating an environment more favorable to healthy eating for kids.  A ban on marketing seems like a reasonable first step, as does doing something about school food.  These might make it easier to teach kids (and parents) some critical thinking around food issues, some cooking skills, and something about where food comes from and why it matters.  The long-range goal is to create a food environment that promotes healthy eating as the default.  This means doing something, even if the results aren’t immediately obvious.   That’s why I’m so in favor of calorie labeling, marketing restrictions, school food improvements, efforts to move supermarkets into low income neighborhoods, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and everything else that makes it easier to eat better.  Eventually, they may add up to something that registers on weight surveys.  And that hope keeps me going.  How about you?