Category Archives: Food Marketing to Children

First Lady Michelle Obama announces Subway’s three-year commitment to promoting healthier choices to kids!

First lady Michelle Obama has made a lasting impact in the lives of Americans with her Let’s Move! initiative. Her work to ensure that all children grow up and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams have focused on making healthy choices easier for all American families. Our First Lady has turned a much-needed spotlight on the issue of childhood nutrition. FoodFacts.com has been especially impressed by and grateful for her choice of this particular issue and for her dedicated work to get this important message out to the American people.

Today, our First Lady joined the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and Subway along with Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, and Justin Tuck at a local Washington, DC, Subway Restaurant, to announce a three-year commitment by the chain in support of her Let’s Move! initiative to promote healthier choices to kids, including launching its largest targeted marketing effort to date. In addition to strengthening its already nutritious menu offerings to kids, Subway will launch a new series of campaigns for kids titled “Playtime Powered by Veggies,” aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and will set new standards for marketing products to families.
“I’m excited about these initiatives not just as a First Lady, but also as a mom,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Subway’s kids’ menu makes life easier for parents, because they know that no matter what their kids order, it’s going to be a healthy choice.”

Subway Restaurants’ commitment answers the First Lady’s call last fall at the first ever White House Convening on Food Marketing to Children, where she urged the private sector to leverage the power of marketing to promote healthier products and decrease the marketing of unhealthy products to kids.

“Subway restaurant’s commitment today builds on the brand’s already strong track record of offering healthier choices to kids, for which it has been lauded by families and health advocates alike,” said PHA Board Chair James R. Gavin, III, MD, PhD. “The new and significant investment it is making today will not only help make fruits and vegetables fun for kids, it will also offer busy moms and dads easy, healthy choices for their families when they’re on the go.”

“Ending childhood obesity is a cause that has been near and dear to Subway since we introduced the Fresh Fit for Kids Meals in 2007,” said Suzanne Greco, vice president of R&D and Operations for the Subway brand. “With this partnership with PHA, we will now reach millions of kids as part of a healthier eating education campaign, making it our largest outreach campaign to date. From a sign on each restaurant’s door that says ‘Playtime Powered by Veggies’ to a video collaboration with Disney’s The Muppets, we will build upon our ongoing efforts to create even better choices for families. We hold ourselves to the highest standards in the industry when it comes to speaking to children and their families. Now we are letting everyone else know what that standard is.”

As part of its commitment, the Subway restaurant chain will:

-  only offer items on its kids menus that meet strong nutritional guidelines informed by federal standards for the national school lunch program, including offering apples as a side and low-fat or non-fat milk or water as a default beverage.

-  deliver $41 million in media value in the next three years to market healthier options to children and families, with a specific focus on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. This is the brand’s largest kid-focused marketing campaign to date, and includes general marketing, in-store merchandising, television, social and digital media and public relations.
-  focus all kid-focused in-store merchandising and marketing on only the healthier options available in its restaurants. This includes training materials which will be updated to teach Sandwich Artists to encourage kids to choose apples.

Playtime Powered by Veggies. We can’t wait to see this campaign in action. We’re thrilled to see Subway putting the First Lady’s initiatives to work and answering her call to the private sector to promote healthier choices for our children. And we’re hopeful that Subway’s efforts will motivate other chains to make similar commitments to the lives of our kids!

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/23/first-lady-michelle-obama-announces-commitment-subway-restaurants-promot

Advergames … target marketing unhealthy food to our kids

FoodFacts.com has followed the issue of how food manufacturers market foods to children. We’ve posted about how the food industry is supposed to self-regulate and how they have stated their commitment to promoting healthier food choices to children. They haven’t been extremely successful in their efforts. Today on Slate.com, we read about how the industry has increased another marketing tactic called “advergames” as another powerful promotional tool. Here’s what they had to say:

Exactly as their name suggests, advergames combine advertising and addictive video games in a way that ensure kids bathe in product spots for as long as they click on the keyboard or smartphone. That might mean anything from popup ads unrelated to the action to whole experiences built around branded characters. Recently, Chipotle got a lot of attention for their Scarecrow commercial and its accompanying game/app, but examples are as numerous as your options for breakfast cereal. Sticking just to that aisle, there’s “Ice Block” from Fruit Loops, “Cap’n Crunch’s Crunchling Adventure,” and “Cookie Crisp City.”

Recently, researchers at Michigan State University analyzed more than 100 advergames to see whether any patterns emerged about the products being advertised. After looking at 145 different websites, the researchers identified 439 products from 19 brands. They then analyzed the nutritional contents of each of these products to see how they measured up against health recommendations for children.

Of the products advertised, approximately 95 percent of the meals and 78 percent of the snacks exceeded total fat content recommendations set by the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For sodium, 95 – 97 percent of the meals and 41 percent to 64 percent of the snacks failed to meet guidelines (depending on whether you’re using the USDA or FDA’s recommendations). And when it came to added sugar, 86.6 percent of meals and 97 percent of snacks exceed the USDA recommendations. (The FDA doesn’t make a recommendation for added sugar.)

There’s some powerful lobbying at work. In 2009, a number of government organizations were tasked with defining nutrition principles for foods marketed to children. It was aptly named the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children, and it has failed repeatedly to stand up to the food industry. In fact, right now its official recommendation is for the industry to regulate itself.

Elizabeth Taylor Quilliam, one of the papers lead authors, says this was an interesting secondary takeaway from the research. “The fact that the agencies were not able to get together with one standard, and that it’s still up to the industry to self regulate is continuing to create this confusing environment where a lot of the messages getting through to kids may not be the ones that parents would want them to receive.”

FoodFacts.com did a little searching. We found games our kids are playing at BKcrown.com (Burger King), McVideogame.com (McDonald’s), PebblesPlay.com (Post Cereal), CrazySquares.com (General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch). Those are just a few of the branded sites. In addition, at GamesOnline.fm, you can play TacoFu from Taco Bell, at GameGape.com, you can play White Castle Chase the Crave and at CandyStand.com, you can play Gummi Grab, Sour then Sweet and Sour Patch Stunt Crew. We were only searching for about 10 minutes. There are plenty more like these out there. You’ll notice, though, that we didn’t find an advergame for an organic food brand. Pretty much sums it up.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/10/09/advergames_show_why_the_government_needs_to_stand_up_to_the_food_lobby.html

Food advertising on children’s websites doesn’t meet current nutritional standards

FoodFacts.com has featured our share of blog posts reviewing the ongoing battle to increase the quality of advertising foods targeted to children. In the past food companies have pledged to self-regulate the ads they are placing in the media, promising to promote healthier products for kids.

A new study out of the Yale Rudd Center and published online in Pediatric Obesity, finds that companies are placing billions of ads for unhealthy foods and beverages on children’s websites. The study evaluated banner ads and other display web advertising on sites that are popular with children – sites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com. It’s the first study that looks closely at food advertising on the web that’s specifically aimed at children.

Rudd Center researchers used syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to identify popular children’s websites and the food advertisements viewed on those web sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Food ads were classified by category and the companies’ participation in the food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Researchers also evaluated the nutritional quality of the advertised products. Most large food companies are a part of the CFBAI and have pledged to promote only healthier food choices in advertising targeted to children. Web advertising is included in that pledge.

Researchers found that 3.4 billion display advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children’s websites annually. More than one-half of these ads appeared on just two Viacom sites: Nick.com and NeoPets.com. Children who visited NeoPets.com viewed on average 30 food ads per month. Food Manufacturers who are a part of the CFBAI placed 89% of the food advertisements on children’s websites.

Three-quarters of the advertisements promoted brands that food companies participating in CFBAI identified as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising, yet the products in 84% of those ads had high levels of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. Almost two-thirds of food ads were for sugary breakfast cereals and fast food. Researchers noted that advertised foods that were designated by CFBAI companies as healthier dietary choices appropriate for child-directed advertising were less likely to meet nutrition standards proposed by the government than other foods advertised to children.

To address limitations of the CFBAI, the U.S. Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) with representatives from four government agencies to develop more effective guidelines for responsible food marketing to children. The authors assert that stronger nutrition standards are required for foods marketed to children, such as those proposed by the IWG, to meaningfully improve the nutritional quality of food and beverage advertising on children’s web sites.

There have been previous studies conducted in regards to food advertising on television that’s targeted to children. Those studies have shown that the self-regulatory concept of the CFBAI haven’t changed much on TV in terms of the nutritional quality of the foods marketed to kids. This study demonstrates that CFBAI pledges aren’t protecting children from web advertising of nutritionally poor foods. While the content of websites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com are safe and engaging for children, over one-third of the food advertising that kids are seeing constantly on those sites are for foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat or sodium.

FoodFacts.com knows that any parent who has taken a child to a grocery store understands how much food advertising affects our kids. If it looked cool and fun on TV or on the internet, kids beg their parents to purchase the product. The point is that healthy foods can also be cool and fun and manufacturers can be more responsible about the products to which they are exposing our children. While we certainly understand that content is king for any website, when it comes to websites for children, adults need to consider more than the safety of the content their children are engaging with. When it comes to giving our children the healthiest start in life, ads count too. Let’s all practice viewing media choices for children through the lens of nutritional awareness!

http://news.yale.edu/2013/07/08/foods-advertised-popular-childrens-websites-do-not-meet-nutrition-standards