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Food Companies Get "F" In Marketing to Kids

By Amy Kuras |

kid-froot-loopsIf you’ve been through the grocery store gauntlet with kids, you understand how powerfully foods — usually pretty unhealthy ones –are marketed to children. The yogurt composed mostly of artificial color and HFCS is right there on the bottom of the dairy case, while the healthier, all natural stuff is up at grownup eye level. The Disney princesses are on “fruit snacks” which bear only the vaguest resemblance to actual fruit, and unprocessed, healthier foods sit there in their comparatively boring packaging.

Of course, the responsibility lies on us, as parents, to say “No” to our children’s entreaties and make healthier food choices. My personal shield against all the “fun food” is to say “Yes, that looks fun, but it isn’t very good for you and we don’t buy food like that.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, aka the “Food Police” in some circles, has issued a report card grading the policies of 128 different food and entertainment companies on marketing to kids. Not surprisingly, most of the companies got failing grades. Interestingly, though, the vast majority of those failed not because of having a bad policy or even doing bad things, but because they had no policy at all.

Mars, Inc. fared the best, because its policy precludes marketing to kids under 12. Interestingly, some trusted sources of media like PBS ranked only a C+, while the makers of Pringles (wonderful,terrible Pringles) did better.

What I think is especially insidious about this is that even parents who should know better seem to think that because nutritionally-poor food is marketed to kids, it’s what they should be eating. In other words, kids need sugared cereal or artificially-flavored snacks not because everything is OK in moderation, but because if the TV says it’s good for kids it must be. Personally, I’d love to see children’s cartoon characters on milk and apples, say, instead of junk food.

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About Amy Kuras


Amy Kuras

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0 thoughts on “Food Companies Get "F" In Marketing to Kids

  1. PlumbLucky says:

    Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but:
    Chances are decent that if its marketed to kids, its nutritionally crap, at best.

  2. LolaLane says:

    I love EnviroKidz organic brand with it’s rain forest cartoon animals and so do my boys. They would gladly choose those goods over other cereal box novelties. Makes it easier to shop anyway.

  3. GP says:

    If there’s a Whole Foods by you, you can be sure it doesn’t have HFCS or hydrogenated oils if its on their shelves, at least. Sure they sell cookies, cereals and yogurts with sugar and all that, but its the HFCS and hydrogenated oils that are the devil, IMO.

  4. Laure68 says:

    GP – I actually don’t agree with you. I don’t often go there (I actually find them a bit too obnoxious), but one day I stopped by to pick up some dinner. I went for some baked chicken, and luckily they had the ingredients listed, and one was HFCS, so I put it back.

    I think junk food is junk food, and most of what is on the shelves at Whole Foods is just junk with a fancy name and higher price to make people think they are eating something good.

    This is one of my big pet peeves. A cookie with sugar is just as bad for you as a cookie with HFCS. The problem with HFCS is that is it cheap, so you see it everywhere, but if you take a product with HFCS and replace is with sugar, you are getting the same product with no added nutritional value. (Some people say sugar tastes better, so that is one reason to choose it I suppose, as long as you know you are getting a treat.)

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    You can find crap in just about every grocery store, even the the purported healthy ones. And you can find healthy food in just about every grocery store, you just have to know how to look and read labels.

  6. jenny tries too hard says:

    I wish they would put cartoon characters on healthy food, too. Of course, there was a Curious George sticker on each of the bananas I put in my kids’ lunches today…but the three-year-old put them there, so I guess that doesn’t count.

    I honestly don’t get how adults could think that anything would be healthy just because it’s marketed to kids. I understand people falling for the “it’s organic/natural/whole foods-approved so it’s good for me,” but seriously…if it was any good, they would market it to YOU, saying “look, feed your kid this” instead of relying on the whine factor to sell the crap.

  7. GP says:

    You’re right about Whole Foods, Laure68. I mis-spoke, it is only their 365 brand that doesn’t have things with HFCS. I do disagree about it being as bad as sugar. There’s literature explaining that the body metabolizes HFCS in a different way than it does sugar. I know there are some other expert opinions that disagree, but I’m not in that camp. Me, I am a big fan of Whole Foods.

  8. PlumbLucky says:

    My experience has been that I have a lot of luck finding things lacking HFCS at Trader Joe’s. And yeah, organic junk food is still junk food :-) .

    Current fave at our house? TJ’s Triple Ginger Snaps. No HFCS in them. Darn good as a treat!

  9. j says:

    The thing that’s so upsetting about the HFCS is that it is in almost everything at the big chain stores. That is what is so nefarious about the whole operation. Check not only the cookies and cereals, but the crackers, breads, yogurt etc. I’ve heard it’s getting better, but TJ’s for the most part, doesn’t have much marketed to kids and the things they do have aren’t that bad. Yes, cane juice and organic sugar are still sugar, but the key is moderation and if HFCS and hydrogenated oils are getting snuck into everything, it becomes harder to moderate. I find it best to just avoid the “regular” grocery stores.

  10. mystic_eye says:

    Is that why Disney had ads on the necterine bags last time I went shopping. I wondered about that. I’ll admit we ended up buying them even though we don’t normally eat that many nectarines, so I made cake.

    Also at most grocery stores around here the balkan style full fat yogurt and the completely gross 0% fat no sugar yogurts are on the bottom. I’m not 100% that the “sugar” in the fruit part of the balkan isn’t HFCS but it does say “sugar” so its probably not. The yogurt itself is sweetened with honey.

    Also I primarily shop at an asian market, its great. Generally no cartoon stuff at all. And because I’m not familiar with most of the sauces and whatnot we eat mostly meat, veggies, and fruit and herbs. I do use the curry sauce, soy sauce, hoisin, and some other things on occasion.

    The only problem with shopping at an Asian market is my kids want to try everything and while I eat pretty much everything (including liver, kidneys, etc and always have) I admit I’d never had any interest in chicken feet and I still don’t know what to do with salted duck eggs. (100 year old eggs have been a favourite ever since a friend got some for me. Bit of soy sauce and sesame oil and that’s all you need. And they’re blue! So kids like them)

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