Study Finds More Licensed Characters, Other Packaging Promotions Used to Market Less Nutritious Foods to Kids

Feb 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Supermarket aisles are enticing young eyeballs with more familiar characters, celebrities, toys and movie giveaways on food packaging than ever, according to a Yale University study.

Published in the March 2010 issue of Public Health Nutrition, the study shows a significant increase in the use of youth-oriented cross-promotions on in the supermarket. Cross-promotions targeted at children and teens increased by 78 percent from 2006 to 2008, the analysis finds, and only 18 percent of products examined met accepted nutrition standards for foods sold to youth.

In the study, conducted by the Rudd Center for at Yale, researchers purchased and examined all products with cross-promotional packaging in a large supermarket on three occasions from 2006 to 2008, categorizing nearly 400 total products by promotional partner, food category, targeted age group, promotion type, product nutrition and company policies on marketing to children.

In addition to the sharp increase in overall youth-oriented cross-promotions, the study found:

• Nutritional quality of kids food products with cross-promotional packaging declined during the period of study;

• 71% of cross promotions involved licensed characters, with 57% of those appealing primarily to children younger than 12 years of age;

• The use of other forms of promotions, such as athletes, sporting events, toys and games, increased from 5% of the total in 2006 to 53% in 2008.

Notably, food manufacturers that have pledged to limit marketing to children through the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative represented 65% of all youth-oriented cross promotions observed in the study. Most of these companies’ pledges do not apply to marketing to children that occurs in stores. In addition, use of cross-promotions among these companies increased significantly, and the nutritional quality of their products did not improve.

“The marketing of foods with low nutritional value to children in grocery stores should raise as much concern as it does on television or the Internet,” said Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center. “Foods with promotions targeted at contained significantly more sugar than foods targeted at other age groups, and companies who have pledged to reduce unhealthy marketing to kids are the biggest offenders.”

The study did show progress among some media companies, including Disney and Warner Brothers. Both companies reduced the volume of licensing for youth promotions in supermarkets during the period of study, and nutritional quality of food products with third-party licensed characters overall showed some improvement.

Explore further: FDA tweaks food safety rules due next year

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australian food ads going on diet

Apr 24, 2006

Australian marketers are putting junk food ads on a diet, shedding celebrity spokespeople and removing toys from kids' meals.

New study levels new criticisms at food industry

Dec 14, 2009

A new study released Monday, Dec. 14, in Washington, D.C., criticizes the nation's food and beverage industry for failing to shift their marketing efforts aimed at children. The report said television advertising continues ...

Grocery Retailers Need Not Fear 'Cherry Pickers'

Sep 19, 2007

"Extreme cherry pickers," grocery shoppers who buy only sale items and nothing else, do not harm retailer profits significantly as generally is believed, according to a forthcoming study in the Journal of ...

Recommended for you

CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate ...

Can you train your brain to crave healthy foods?

4 hours ago

The mere sight of a slice of gooey chocolate cake, a cheesy pizza, or a sizzling burger can drive us to eat these foods. In terms of evolution we show preference for high calorie foods as they are an important ...

What doctors say to LGBT teens matters

6 hours ago

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn ...

User comments : 0