25 November 2013
A CHOICE review of junk food marketing to kids has found fast food companies using mobile phone apps and social media to push salty, fatty and sugary foods to children without even the limited voluntary restrictions found in television advertising.
“Advertising to kids is all pervasive, a multi-billion dollar industry targeting kids at their every turn. The growing popularity of mobile phones has led junk food companies developing a range of sophisticated strategies to push their unhealthy offerings on children.”
“With children increasingly exposed to junk food advertising via apps, social media, viral marketing and celebrity endorsements, competitions and advergames with embedded brand messages and licensed characters, educating kids about junk food has never been more challenging.”
It is estimated $56 billion a year is being spent on social and medical costs linked to obesity in Australia. In the face of strong evidence that junk food ads are part of the obesity problem, the food industry has created voluntary codes to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods directed primarily at children.
While the Australian Food and Grocery Council (“AFGC”) has claimed self-regulation of junk food advertising has been a success, independent surveys in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia have found self regulation by the food and beverage industries has had little impact on the amount of advertising seen by kids in the last five years.
“With a lifetime customer worth an estimated $100,000 to a retailer, fast food companies have taken to force-feeding junk food advertising to kids through mobile phone applications and social platforms such as YouTube.”
“Hungry Jack’s Shake and Win app, generates vouchers for free or discounted food when user shake their phone at any Hungry Jack’s store. With one in four Australian children overweight or obese, you have to question whether this is a responsible practice.”
The problem is not limited to mobile phone applications and social media, with food companies also using community based sponsorships to push unhealthy foods to kids.
”Large food companies are mainly concerned with creating brand loyalty. Companies such as McDonald’s say they don’t advertise to children aged under 14, yet they do sponsor children’s sports such as Little Athletics, Hoop Time basketball and Swimming Queensland.”
“KFC and Milo are sponsors of Cricket Australia, and Coca-Cola sponsors Bicycle Network Victoria, which has a program for teens.”
“Fast food companies sponsoring sports undermines the healthy eating messages that governments and parents are trying to promote. It normalises the relationship between junk food and sport.”
“The food and beverage industry’s argument is that responsible parents should educate their kids about eating unhealthy food in moderation as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. But those same companies are undermining parents at every step by spending vast amounts on advertising and marketing unhealthy foods and drinks to influence children’s preferences.”
“The line between entertainment and advertising is increasingly blurred, with product tie-ins and placement within TV shows and films common practice for food companies seeking to reach children with their messages.”
For more information on junk food marketing to kids and to have your say visit choice.com.au/shopping/packaging-labelling-and-advertising/advertising/articles/junk-food-advertising-to-kids
Tips for parents
- Reinforce healthy eating messages such as “Go for 2 & 5”
- (two serves of fruit and five of veggies per day)
- Distinguish between “everyday” healthy foods and “sometimes” junk foods.
- Teach kids about how advertising and marketing works so they are not simply passive consumers of the media messages.
- Restrict screen time to two hours per day.
- Monitor what your kids watch and the apps they are downloading.