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Marketing food and drink to children

Food and drinks marketing and promotion to children

Compared to dietary recommendations, children are eating too much fat, sugars and salt and too few fruit and vegetables. There are many influences on children’s dietary preferences. We know that food marketing influences children’s ‘pestering’ behaviour, their purchases and their consumption patterns [Hastings 2003].

The vast majority of foods and drinks that children see advertised and promoted on television, online, in store and in a variety of other media are within the ‘Big Five’ categories which are high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS): fast foods, soft drinks, sugar-sweetened cereals, confectionery and savoury snacks.

Rules introduced in 2007 prohibit ads for HFSS foods on British television during children’s programmes and programmes with a high proportion of children in the audience.  But children still see many HFSS advertisements during peak TV viewing times. They are also increasingly exposed to inducements to request or purchase products through advertising, promotions and brand advertising in online games, social networks, mobile messaging, in store promotions, child-appealing packaging, in-school promotions and sponsored sports events.

The NHF supports the Children’s Food Campaign advocating protections for children from unhealthy food marketing.

The NHF has supported the PolMark Project, coordinated by the International Association for the Study of Obesity, which analysed national policies on food marketing around the world.

Latest NHF report published - June 2011

A new report published by the NHF in June 2011 maps the national and international regulations and voluntary commitments from businesses affecting food and drink marketing to children in order to identify current gaps and opportunities for action.

With contributions from the National Children’s Bureau, the International Association for the Study of Obesity, the International Business Leaders’ Forum and the Institute for Social Marketing, the report also presents fresh insights from children, young people and parents about their awareness of food marketing techniques and the reported influence on their food and drink choices.
It also presents views from commercial stakeholders drawn from food companies, licensing companies, retailers, advertisers and trade associations. In a case study of the Marine Stewardship Council, the report explores the processes for developing voluntary principles and sets out transferable learning which could be applied in developing voluntary principles to control food marketing to children.

Full report:  An analysis of the regulatory and voluntary landscape concerning the marketing and promotion of foods and drinks to children (pdf - 1.66 MB)


Appendix 1:  Notes of corporate stakeholder meeting (pdf - 232 KB)

Appendix 2: NCB report (pdf - 1 MB)

Appendix 3: MSC case study (pdf - 772 KB)

Appendix 4:  Index: Grids of information captured during the mapping exercise (pdf - 354 KB)

Mapping area 1:  Current nature and extent of food marketing to children
Grid 1    - Nature and extent (pdf - 553 KB)

Mapping area 2:  Current statutory and self-regulatory regimes and voluntary codes applicable in the UK
Grid 2 a - Current statutory and self-regulatory regimes (pdf - 553 KB)
Grid 2 b - Trade body codes (pdf - 773 KB)
Grid 2 c - Proposals and recommendations from intergovernmental organisations (pdf - 527 KB)

Mapping area 3:  Statutory and self-regulatory regimes in other countries
Grid 3 a - Characteristics of government policies (pdf - 533 KB)
Grid 3 b - Policies - non-broadcast (pdf - 682 KB)

Mapping area 4:  Voluntary commitments, policies and pledges of manufacturers, retailers, trade groups and media owners
Grid 4 a - Food industry pledges (pdf - 742 KB)
Grid 4 b - Company members of pledges (pdf - 565 KB)
Grid 4 c - Pledges - content at a glance (pdf - 534 KB)
Grid 4 d - Pledges - communication channels (pdf - 330 KB)
Grid 4 e - Audience definition (pdf - 682 KB)
Grid 4 f - Pledges - marketing techniques (pdf - 337 KB)
Grid 4 g - Communications channels and marketing techniques by individual company (pdf - 609 KB)
Grid 4 h - Company nutritional criteria (pdf - 809 KB)
Grid 4 j - Summary of type of definitions of foods (pdf - 531 KB)

Mapping area 5:  Proposals, and recommendations by consumer and health non-governmental organisations (NGOs) 
Grid 5 - Proposals and recommendations from health and consumer groups (pdf - 633 KB)

Mapping area 6: Methods for categorising foods and beverages (including nutrient profiling) that are being used in the UK and in other countries
Grid 6 - Methods for categorising foods (pdf - 500 KB)