of these new products. Additionally, the percentage of a company’s sales portfolio devoted to healthful foods and beverages could be a publicly accessible means to track progress. As discussed below, industry and marketing firms consider much of the quantitative and qualitative information to be proprietary. Therefore, innovative approaches that provide information to the public while preserving the privacy and sale of commercial data are needed.
Most commercial marketing research data are obtained by private companies, marketing research and public relations firms, or companies that are associated with the marketing industry. The data that are collected and analyzed are generally proprietary and not publicly available. These data are retained for internal use or are expensive to purchase, thereby preventing widespread access to the data by the public health community or general public. These data are needed to better understand how marketing influences young people’s behaviors, and to help assess the direct relationship between advertising and marketing activities and sales (IOM, 2006). The IOM report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?, recommended that a means should be developed to make commercial marketing data available, if possible, as a publicly accessible resource (IOM, 2006). These data could help enhance understanding of the dynamics that shape the health and nutrition attitudes and the behaviors of children and youth at different ages and in different circumstances. They could also be used to inform a multifaceted social marketing program that would target parents, caregivers, and families to promote healthful diets and lifestyles for children and youth. Other groups have concurred with this recommendation to increase the public availability of commercial data. There is a particular need to improve the government’s access to data on consumer attitudes and behaviors. Expanding government’s access to syndicated commercial databases was a specific recommendation of the Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home Foods. Government agencies could establish in their annual budgets recurring line items for funds to ensure the continuous and timely access to commercial data sets (Keystone Center, 2006).
Supermarket scanner point-of-sale data are another useful form of marketing research data that are collected but which are difficult or expensive to access (NRC and IOM, 2004). Researchers could purchase these data from marketing and media companies, analyze them, and then publish the results of their analyses in peer-reviewed publications. The ACNielsen Fresh