Despite pledges from junk food companies to cut down on advertising, children are seeing more targeted snack food ads than they have in recent years, research from the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has found.
The marketing efforts contradict a 2006 campaign introduced by the Council of Better Business Bureaus called the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, aimed at allowing food companies to self-regulate their advertising. Companies that signed up for the initiative — including brands like Burger King, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, McDonald’s, Mondelez, and Nestlé USA — have pledged to advertise only healthy products to children.
In spite of this, researchers found that the number of snack food ads targeted to preschoolers rose 18 percent between 2010 and 2014, while ads for young children increased 10 percent. Teenagers between 12 and 17 years of age saw a 29 percent increase in snack advertisements, thanks to platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
What’s more, minority kids were exposed to more junk food advertising than their white peers — a direct result of companies spending more money on minority-targeted media campaigns. Black children, for instance, saw 64 percent more snack food ads on television than white children.
“It's hard to translate the number of advertisements to actual consumption, but if you just look at the imbalance (between healthy and unhealthy snacks) it would suggest that advertising is probably not increasing children's fruit and nut consumption,” said Jennifer L. Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center.