Antioxidant (Nutrient Content) Claim
Marketing to Children
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents—A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation—A Report to Congress.” The report aggregates and summarizes the responses of 44 companies selected and required by the FTC to provide specific requests for information.
As the report confirms, much is spent marketing to children and adolescents, particularly for carbonated beverages ($229 million), restaurants ($161 million) and breakfast cereals ($113 million), which comprised 63% of expenditures. These are followed by advertising for juice and non-carbonated beverages, snack foods, candy/frozen desserts, prepared foods and meals, baked goods, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. However, when marketing expenditures devoted to youth are compared to amounts spent by the responders in total, baked goods represent the greatest proportion of total spending committed to youth advertising. On the other hand, carbonated beverages and restaurant food spending to attract youth constituted a “relatively small percentage” of those responders’ overall ad spending.
The report details expenditures by activity:
The report explored “Target Companies’ Market Research on Child and Teen Audiences,” finding:
1. “Product placement within the storyline...can be highly successful in achieving product recognition, ad recall and purchase intent.”
2. “Children like ads with dramatic, action-filled and to-be-continued storylines.”
3. “(Children) also like ads that link to websites and afford an opportunity to play games...or win prizes.”
4. “Animated characters...seem to be an important factor in getting children to ask their parents to buy a product.”
5. “...Children like animated characters...to be both ‘fun’ and ‘cool.’”
6. “...Children like premiums with food products.”
7. Associating food with “fun” appeals to children; “taste” has more appeal to adolescents.
8. “...Some of the research found statements that imply a product is healthy or nutritious, or healthier than other comparable products, generally do not generate appeal to children or adolescents, because they are concerned the taste will be compromised.”
“Whether there is a link between food marketing to children and childhood obesity is a question not addressed by this report,” the authors assert on page 81. However, the report does include “general recommendations”:
Any company marketing to children or adolescents should secure a copy of the report and review it with particular attention to Section IV (Assessment of Food Company Health Initiatives and Recommendations) and Section V (Conclusion). The report will no doubt serve as the central starting point of public comments and debate—and, potentially, additional interest by Congress and states in the obesity debate.