Marketing food specifically to kids has been around as long as there have been cartoons on TV. Parent groups have fought hard to limit what can be done to market mostly sugar based products to consumers who are not yet fully educated about proper nutrition.
Last July, the FTC published a report which in their words, “sheds new light on food marketing to children and adolescents.
According to the report, 44 major food and beverage marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children under 12 and adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the United States in 2006.
The report finds that the landscape of food advertising to youth is dominated by integrated advertising campaigns that combine traditional media, such as television, with previously unmeasured forms of marketing, such as packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes, and Internet. These campaigns often involve cross-promotion with a new movie or popular television program. .Analyzing this data, the report calls for all food companies “to adopt and adhere to meaningful, nutrition-based standards for marketing their products to children under 12.”
The report finds that approximately $870 million was spent on child-directed marketing, and a little more than $1 billion on marketing to adolescents, with about $300 million overlapping between the two age groups in 2006. Marketers spent more money on television advertising than on any other technique ($745 million or 46 percent of the 2006 total.)
Also in 2006, cross-promotions tied foods and beverages to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters that appeal primarily to children. In total, the companies spent more than $208 million, representing 13 percent of all youth-directed marketing, on cross-promotional campaigns.
In 1999, 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight. The CDC says that from two NHANES surveys (1976–1980 and 2003–2004) show that the prevalence of overweight is increasing: for children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 13.9%; for those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.4%This prevalence has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past 2 decades.
The problems with obesity according to the surgeon general’s office;
- Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.
- Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.
- Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.
- The most immediate consequence of overweight as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.
The FTC took a look at the question concerning allowing companies to market food to kids. They came up with some ‘suggested guidelines”.
The agencies recommended that food companies:
- intensify their efforts to create new products and reformulate existing products to make them lower in calories, more nutritious, more appealing to children, and more convenient to prepare and eat;
- help consumers control portion sizes and calories through smaller portions, single-serving packages, and other packaging cues;
- explore labeling initiatives, including icons and seals, to identify lower-calorie, nutritious foods clearly and in a manner that does not mislead consumers;
- review and revise their marketing practices with the goal of improving the overall nutritional profile of the foods marketed to children, for example, by adopting minimum nutritional standards for the foods they market to children, or by otherwise shifting emphasis to lower-calorie, more nutritious products;
- generally explore ways to improve efforts to educate consumers about nutrition and fitness, with simple and effective messages; and
- review and revise their policies to improve the overall nutritional profile of the products they market and sell in schools.
Obviously, we have been hearing about this story for years. And with good reason. Is anything besides a study or two actually being done? It is nice to know that there are people concerned with the issue of childhood obesity. However, there are also people who benefit from kids seeing this kind of marketing.