The Dark Side of Food Campaigns, Part 1

I think at this point, it’s common knowledge that consuming lots of sugary beverages, filled with little (if any) nutrients and too many empty calories, is not a healthy food (or in this case, beverage) choice.

Unfortunately, according to an article in The Atlantic last week, these sugary drinks are still being marketed to young people at very high rates. The article briefly touches on the well-known risks associated with overconsumption of these drinks:

  • They are the single greatest source of added sugar in the American diet and add little or no nutrition.
  • There is very clear evidence linking consumption of these beverages with elevated risk for obesity and diabetes. (via The Atlantic)

Wow, that's a lot of sugar (via http://www.sugarstacks.com)

Despite these facts, the title of the article really says it all: “Marketing of Sugary Drinks to Kids and Teens: As Strong as Ever”.  Using research from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, the article lists some of the key marketing campaign tactics being employed by companies selling these drinks. Here are a couple examples:

  • Companies have shifted from traditional media such as television ads to newer forms that engage youth, often without their parents’ awareness, through rewards for purchasing sugary drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions, product placements, social media, and smartphones.
  • The companies package their products in ways that can make it difficult for parents and children to decipher what is really in the product. Fruit-drink packages, for instance, typically have pictures of real fruit, even though these drinks contain no more than 5 percent real fruit juice. Many parents and children are unaware that fruit drinks can be just as high in calories and added sugar as soda. (via The Atlantic)

As I read these, it’s hard not to think that these companies are putting profit ahead of public health, and worse, children’s health.  I understand that the companies are seeking to sell their products and make a profit, but at what cost?

I can only hope that, in order to combat these trends, policies are promoted, either by advocates or the policymakers themselves, that seek to curtail this sort of marketing campaign, which is essentially encouraging young people to make poor food and beverage choices. It’s bad for their health, and it’s bad for the economy as well, as diseases like diabetes and obesity add to the costs of public health. The article gives one policy suggestion:

Federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have the ability to step in to help corral marketing and labeling practices, but there must be the political will. (via The Atlantic)

Indeed, behind every good policy is the political will needed to get it passed, but the way Congress has been acting as of late, it’s hard to be optimistic.

*The Dark Side of Food Campaigns, Part 2, will look at the steps being taken in NYC to combat these marketing campaigns*

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3 responses to this post.

  1. That’s just tells you that there is little to no awareness among young adults about how bad these drinks are, and especially sugar as it is. I think that these companies are simply doing whatever makes them a buck, not to say that what they are doing is right. At this point the only thing that may bring some sort of awareness to people if they either research about it on their own or they learn it through school or other means.

    Reply

  2. […] curtailed their marketing campaigns targeted at children and young adults. On the contrary, the marketing towards this demographic has only increased, and the health implications that could result from this have been […]

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  3. […] after talking about how big beverage corporations have been targeting their marketing campaigns towards young people, and discussing how the Bloomberg administration has been using an advertising campaign to combat […]

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