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Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?
industry attention, creativity, and resources to the production and marketing of food and beverages for children and youth. Product branding has become a normalized part of the lives and culture of American children and youth, and the majority of food and beverage marketing practices promote branded products instead of unbranded food groups. Marketers use a range of strategies to build brand awareness and brand loyalty early in life that is intended to be sustained into adulthood.
The growth rate in recent years in new product introductions for both food and beverage products targeted to children and adolescents, is greater than the growth rate for food and beverage products targeted to the general market. The majority of these new food and beverage products were branded products that are high in total calories, sugar, salt, fat, and low in nutrients.
Television remains the primary promotional medium for measured media marketing of food and beverage marketing to children and youth, but a shift is occurring toward other sales promotion such as product placement, character licensing, the Internet, advergames, in-school marketing, and special events marketing. Viral marketing and product placement that traverse many types of media are newer marketing strategies being used more commonly to reach consumers. Commercial and noncommercial content are becoming more indistinguishable, sophisticated, and blended, presenting a special challenge, given the limited capacity of younger children to process these messages cognitively. Guidelines developed by the National Advertising Review Council and administered by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit have contributed to the enforcement of industrywide standards for traditional advertising. However, these standards have not kept pace with the expanded forms of marketing communication.
The heightened public interest in health and wellness and increased concern about obesity presents certain marketing risks—such as increased costs associated with developing, reformulating, packaging, test marketing, and promoting food and beverage products, as well as uncertainty related to creating and sustaining consumer demand for these new products—as well as potentially profitable yet unexplored marketing opportunities. Food and beverage manufacturers can compete for and expand their market share for healthier food and beverage product categories, be role models for the industry by substantially shifting overall product portfolios toward healthier products, and serve as socially responsible corporate stakeholders in the response to childhood obesity. In making positive changes that expand consumers’ selection of healthier foods and beverages, despite the challenges of market forces and the marketplace, companies may avoid the risk of either government regulation or litigation.
Leading food, beverage, and restaurant companies have taken certain,