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One of the reasons why many parents strictly regulate
their kids' TV time is because of the advertising that the kids see on TV. A
majority of the TV ads are about food, and they typically do not include the
healthiest food choices. In the country where obesity among children has
reached an alarming peak, watching TV is like gaining extra calories. According
to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.8% of
American children ages 6-11 were obese in 2003-2004, as compared to only 4% in
1971-1974. It is scary to imagine what the obesity rates are right now, in
2013. But it seems that nowadays the food and beverage industry is taking steps
to remedy the situation by providing and marketing healthier food choices. On
December 20, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (the "FTC") released a report
titled "A Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents:
Follow-Up Report," where it identified certain positive trends. This is
their second report on the same topic, and is based on the 2009 data (as
compared to the first report that was based on the 2006 data).
According to the Report, total spending on food marketing to youth dropped
19.5% in 2009, to $1.79 billion. This, of course, still seems like an
extraordinarily big figure. There has been a big shift in the placement of
youth-directed food advertising. Spending on TV advertising fell 19.5%, while
spending on new media, such as online and viral marketing, increased by 50%!
This means that parents need to closely monitor not only their kids' TV time,
but also their online exposure to food ads. And there is a good reason for it.
Incredibly, in 2009, 72% of the total food advertising money was spent on fast
foods, carbonated beverages and breakfast cereals. So, the rest of the food
(such as veggies, healthy snacks, fish, meats, eggs, yogurts, milk, beans,
etc.) all together got marketed with only 28% of the revenue, which seems
unevenly low. Looking at the bright side, drinks marketed to children and teens
were slightly lower in calories in 2009 than in 2006 (although they still
averaged more than 20 grams of added sugar per serving!). Also, fast food
marketed to children and teens was lower in calories, sodium, sugar and
saturated fat in 2009, compared to 2006. Actually, kid's meals in fast food
restaurants were more nutritious than other meals and main dishes directed to
children ages 2-11. Additionally, marketing to children of cereals with 13 g of
sugar or more per serving was eliminated.
I cast my hopes on the self-regulatory efforts of the food and beverage
industry. The industry has made a lot of progress in the last several years in
terms of marketing healthier products to kids primarily in response to First
Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and the FTC's earlier report on the
same issue. Self-regulatory initiatives are mainly spearheaded by organizations
such as the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
(the "CFBAI") and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The CFBAI has
recently experienced an increase in membership, so now all, or nearly all,
children's marketing in many food categories is covered by their program that aims to introduce further improvements in the
nutritional quality of foods marketed to children. Current members include the
giants of the food and beverage industry, such as Burger King Corp., Campbell
Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Kraft Foods Gorup, Inc., Mars, Inc.,
McDonald's USA, ConAgra Foods, Inc., The Dannon Company, General Mills, Inc.,
Nestle USA, PepsiCo, Inc., Post Foods, LLC, The Hershey Company, Kellogg
Company, Hollshire Brands, Unilever United States.
Perhaps, what we really need to change is not which foods and drinks are
advertised to our kids but the overall quality of food that is produced and
consumed in the United States. Changing our consumer preferences away from the
fast foods, carbonated beverages and sugary cereals and towards healthier
choices may prompt the food and beverage industry to advertise healthy foods to
us and our children. After all, the law of economics says that it is the
consumer demand that determines the supply.
Read more commentary from Arina Shulga on the legal aspects of operating new
and growing businesses at Business Law Post.
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