Food Advertising and Children

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The food and beverage industry views children and adolescents as a key market force. As a result, children and adolescents are targeted aggressively by food advertisers. They are exposed to a growing number of advertising, marketing, and commercials through a wide range of avenues. The principal goal of food advertising and marketing aimed at children is to influence certain brands for food purchases among youth. A wide range of food advertising techniques and channels are used to reach children and adolescents to spark brand awareness and encourage product sales. Creating an environment in which children in the United States grow up healthy should be a high priority for the nation. Yet the prevailing pattern of food and beverage marketing to children represents a missed opportunity, and a threat to the health of the next generation. Children's dietary and health patterns are shaped by the relationship of many factors. With the growth of the media there is also been a parallel growth with their use for marketing, including the marketing of food and beverage products. We view food not only by how it tastes but by its nutritional value and what that item means to us. When a person eats, we eat with our minds as much as with our mouths. Numerous studies have shown that foods heavily marketed to preschool and grade school children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, which is not part of healthful eating recommendations for children. They have shown that children exposed to food advertising prefer and choose advertised food products more frequently than those not exposed to such ads. Purchase request studies with children under age 11 have also found strong associations between number of hours of television watched by children and number of children's requests to parents for those foods, as well as availability of those food items in the home. Multiple paths are used to reach youth to influence food product purchase behavior. Youth-oriented marketing channels and techniques include television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, kids clubs, the Internet, toys and products with brand logos, and youth-targeted promotions, such as cross-selling and tie-ins. The largest single source of media messages about food to children is television. Television viewing starts early, US children between the ages of 2 and 4 years view 2 hours of television daily. Their viewing increases to over 3.5 hours near the end of grade school, and then drops off to about 2.75 hours in later adolescence. US children in low-income families and minority youth tend to watch more television. Thus they have greater exposure to food ads. It is estimated that US children may view between 20,000 – 40,000 commercials each year and by the time they graduate from high school may have been exposed to 360,000 television ads. Food is the most frequently advertised product on US children's television. Food ads account for over 50% of all ads targeting children. Children view an average of one food commercial every five minutes of television viewing time, and may see as many as three hours of food commercials each week which makes this a beneficial advertising outlet. (4) Marketing and advertising play a significant role in behavior for children. Since the 1980s, the food and beverage industry has made children and adolescents the targets of intense and specialized food marketing and advertising efforts. Children are exposed to multiple food advertisements every day. Foods marketed to children such as highly sweetened cereals to cookies, candy, fast foods, and soda are predominantly high in calories, sugar and fat. With youth, marketers have tapped into an audience that is particularly vulnerable to the messages and tactics of the food and beverage industry. Marketers have capitalized on this situation by using numerous marketing means to reach children and adolescents. Experts feel that the food advertised that children are exposed to...
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