July 29th, 2008

Junk Food Marketed to Kids is a $1.6 Billion a Year Business, Study Finds

My Fox Twin Cities

FTC finds that cross-promotion through other media is prevalent

A study released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission reveals the amount of money spent on advertising junk food to children and adolescents is astronomical.

“Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation” found that 44 major food and beverage marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children and adolescents in 2006.

The report finds that the advertising campaigns infiltrate youth through not only television, but packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes, and the internet. These campaigns often incorporate cross-promotion with a popular blockbuster movie or television program.

The FTC obtained the information for the report through compulsory process orders. Marketing information was obtained by beverage manufacturers, producers of snacks, cereals and frozen meals, candy and dessert-makers, dairy marketers, fruit and vegetable growers and fast food or quick-service restaurants.

The study found cross-campaign marketing to be prominent. Characters and themes from television ads carried over to packaging, displays in stores, the internet, and restaurants.

Foods and beverages were tied to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters that appeal primarily to children. The companies spent more than $208 million on cross-promotional campaigns.

The advertising pressure from these companies is overwhelming children with poor diet choices.

Commercial Alert is a nonprofit organization that focuses on marketing that exploits children. “The FTC report demonstrates the comprehensive effort by junk food companies to manipulate kids,” says Robert Weissman, managing director. “A TV-centered ad campaign may be supplemented by toys, websites, theme park marketing, video games and sports promotions. For children, there is no escape.”

The report recommends that all companies that market food or beverage products to children under 12 adopt meaningful, nutrition-based standards for marketing their products.

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