colorful cereal boxes and candy marketed for kids
Food Advocacy,  Food For Better Health

Marketing Food To Our Children – PART 4

A four part series examining the United States Government’s relationship with the agricultural industry and how that directly affects your family’s health

Food companies marketing to kids
Photo courtesy of

There is little doubt governmental policies regarding subsidizing farmers to grow more corn, soybeans, wheat and others have not changed since the 1940’s. Originally meant to help our country out of a depression, these policies have encouraged agribusiness to develop ways to create more, cheaper products using these subsidized crops.   These cheaper products, high-fructose corn syrup, nitrates, and other “processed” foods have directly impacted the health of our country.  Leading the world in heart disease, diabetes and obesity, America is falling into a desperate health crisis.  Despite this predicament, food marketing campaigns are targeting our children.

Food stylist

The role of a food stylist is to make food look the most appetizing possible for advertising.  Almost an art form, food stylist use plenty of non-food items to create the most mouth-watering, fresh, and tantalizing images possible.

  • Hair tonic is used instead of milk – as to prevent the wilting of Cornflakes
  • Acrylic, fake ice cubes are used, instead of real ones, because real one would melt under photography light
  • Crisco is used in place of ice cream

Food stylist make the food irrestible.  Advertisers spend over $35 BILLION a year in food campaigns.  Last year, $12 BILLION alone was spent on food advertising directed to children – that is twice the amount spent 10 years ago and most of the ads are for PROCESSED FOODS.

Food for kids in advertising

Kid reaching for sugar cereal that marketers target
Photo courtesy of

Advertisers like to target children because they are naive to motives by the food companies.  They accept new products and unusual flavors, more easily than adults.  According to a 2007 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, children are exposed to over 10,000 food commercials per year and the rates of obesity in America’s youth have almost tripled in the last quarter century.

Research shows that kids spend more of their own money on food, rather than clothes, music or movies. The ramifications of our children’s health are serious. The advertising industry has done such an incredible job; kids believe candy and snacks should be a part of their everyday diet.   Most advertising to kids focuses around fast food, sugar, soft drinks and candy.  In a 2009 interview with Peter Jennings, then, Grocery Manufactures of America executive Chip Kunde stated, “food manufactures are trying to market their products responsibly.” I don’t recall seeing any commercials for fruits and vegetables during Saturday morning cartoons.

How food is marketed to kids

Advertising executives admit they do not get the same return on investment advertising asparagus to kids, as they will marketing the unhealthy food products.  Advertisers use cartoon characters, bright color packaging, turn candy into breakfast cereal and they encourage kids to eat junk food in school. The food industry wants kids to ask their parents to buy these products for them and reluctantly, parents do. Author Marion Nestle explains the “nag factor,” as being, the last thing parents want to argue with their small children about…is food.

Of course, advertisers blame the parents for not protecting their children from the ads the marketers have created. However, if advertisers want to place the responsibility of food choices on the parents, then they should be marketing to parents – but they don’t.  The advertisers rely on children to nag the parents to buy the unhealthy products. These advertising tactics directly affect childhood obesity rates.

In 1979, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating the marketing of unhealthy food to children.  The FTC concluded advertising to children was unfair because they do not have the capacity to understand the intent of advertisers. Their recommendations were to either ban advertising sugar-coated products to kids under 11 years old or ban all ads to kids under 8 years old.

The FTC severely underestimated the influence of the food and broadcast industry lobbyist and their friends in Congress.  The FTC was immediately under attack.  Congress threatened to shut down and remove the entire Federal Trade Commission. Since then, no legislative talk of any kind has occurred discussing any advertising regulations to children.  AND SINCE THEN, the Surgeon General concludes obesity is the number one pressing health issue in children and in adults throughout the United States.

The exact same thing happened with the tobacco industry 30 years ago…

What do you think about food companies marketing to children?



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