Food marketing: child's play?

We take a look at how food is marketed to children, and what the problems are.
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  • Updated:6 Mar 2007

01.Food marketing: child's play?

Please note: this information was current as of March 2007 but is still a useful guide today.

Kids are a special target for food marketing, and this concerns us for several reasons:

  • Child surrounded by productsThe techniques used to create brand awareness and desire for particular products are getting increasingly more sophisticated, and have the ability to reach more children than ever before. See Cyberspace marketing for more.
  • Because marketing influences kids’ food preferences and choices, it affects their diets and, ultimately, health. We looked at over 70 different products carrying promotions aimed at kids and found that the majority of them were likely to contribute to an unhealthy diet. On-pack promotions describes the different techniques used.
  • For very young children there’s evidence that they can’t tell the difference between ads and genuine programs on TV. Marketing aimed at kids can easily exploit this inability, adding another element to the problems with it.

What consumers think

  • CHOICE commissioned Newspoll to ask 1200 people aged 18 years and over if they would be in favour of or against government regulating the way food and drink is advertised and marketed to children.
  • Overall 82% were in favour, 13% against.
  • Among parents and guardians, the results were 86% in favour, 11% against.
  • Other results from the survey show that most parents support some form of government intervention to prevent children becoming overweight.
    Details and further results of this survey will be published in CHOICE later this year.

Our verdict

  • It's vital that food marketing is prevented from having a negative impact on kids’ diets, and that children are protected from being exploited.
  • A new voluntary code of practice is being developed by the industry, which looks more broadly at the marketing of food and drinks, including the more insidious forms of marketing via the internet.
  • While this may help, we think the Federal Government needs to do its bit too and take action to improve regulation of food promotion — in all its forms — to children.

Video: Kids and Baby Council - Advertising

A panel of experts has discussed hot topics affecting Australian parents at the inaugural CHOICE Kids and Baby Council - 2012. Here they discuss advertising.



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