The researchers say that foods intended for children contain more sugar and are less rich in essential nutrients than other products.
Among the products studied, cereals and pastries present the most attractive marketing for children. Experts say there is a need to better educate parents and put in place government regulations on the marketing of products to children. Foods marketed to children with the most attractive packaging are often higher in sugar and lower in vital nutrients than those with less attractive packaging. This is according to a Canadian study published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers examined nearly 6,000 food products relevant to children’s diets and found that around 13% of them contained child-appealing packaging, with the potency of this packaging varying from product to product. other.
In general, however, although there was a weak correlation between marketing potency and general nutrient levels, researchers said that foods that were rated as most appealing to children were higher in sugar. , with an average of 14.7 grams compared to 9 grams, compared to the standard packaging.
Although this study revealed variability in nutritional quality and composition depending on the food category and nutrient, the results showed that in many cases products with child-friendly packaging were richer. in nutrients of concern, particularly total sugars, free sugars and sodium, than products with child-unappealing packaging,” the University of Toronto and University of Ottawa researchers wrote in a Press release.
Of all the foods studied, only two categories had more than 50% child-appealing packaging: cereals and toaster pastries. These are the products most aggressively marketed to children.
The study focused specifically on the Canadian food market, but experts say the same processes and conclusions are likely to apply to Western countries.
The importance of marketing
How to determine what is “appealing to children” and what is not? The researchers attempted to answer this question by developing a codified system based on a dozen individual categories. The specific marketing techniques displayed on product packaging vary by food category. However, core techniques traditionally used in child-appealing marketing, such as child-appealing visual design, appeals to fun or coolness, and the use of characters, have remained popular overall. of the sample.
Of course, kids don’t usually buy cereal or baked goods for themselves, but what kids like often influences their parents.
The “bullying factor” or “nuisance power” is a term used to describe the influence that children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, have on their parents’ purchasing decisions. Marketers recognize that children can successfully negotiate their purchases by constantly pestering their parents to buy a product they want. The idea is that the more a child asks for a product, the more likely the parent is to give in and make the purchase. This phenomenon is a powerful force in the retail industry, as children can influence their parents’ purchasing decisions, making them a valuable demographic for businesses to target.
More Education and Regulation of Children’s Products Needed
To curb the marketing of less healthy foods directly to children, the researchers suggested that policymakers implement more aggressive marketing restrictions to protect children.
The researchers suggest that groups of parents and pediatricians develop a best practice policy for marketing to children. Next, parents should only buy from stores and organizations that adhere to this policy. Another solution is to ask the government to regulate the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
Parents also have a role to play.
For parents, it’s about realizing what’s really healthy and unhealthy for their children. Learning what these foods can do to your children can help parents understand the seriousness of the situation. It’s important to teach your kids why some foods are bad and some are good, and to teach them healthy eating habits. Proven policies include adding nutritional information to restaurant children’s menus, for example.