Be aware of the food marketing targeted at your child.
Food marketing can take on many forms. Some of the more common forms include catchy jingles and fast paced television commercials, the use of licensed cartoon characters, such as Dora, on food packages, food companies having their own spokes-character such as the Trix Bunny or Captain Crunch and eye-catching food packages.
Technology is often used in newer marketing efforts.
Child focused websites often contain banner ads or pop-up ads for food companies. If the child clicks on the ad they are taken to the food site where they can play advergames, enter contests or watch videos about the food product. Advergames combine online games with a food product. For example, a child might play an online game where points are earned by finding the hidden spokes-character. Many food manufacturers are switching to internet advertising as it is less expensive than television advertising and children spend more time playing online games than watching a 15 to 30 second television commercial.
The good news is food companies are beginning to promote healthier foods, too. Licensed cartoon characters are sometimes found on fresh fruits and vegetables. Some restaurants are promoting that their children's meals come with fruit and milk. One frozen vegetable company recently increased sales through a marketing campaign aimed to get children to eat more vegetables.
You can be proactive and limit the exposure of food marketing to children and help older children understand the role of food marketing. Here are four tips:
- Limit television viewing and do not allow televisions in a child's bedroom.
- If older children are playing online "advergames", explain to them this is advertising.
- Before going to the grocery store, make a grocery list and stick to it. Rather than having to say, "No, we can't get that cereal," you can explain, "It is not on the list, so we can't buy it today."
- Children over the age of 8 are beginning to understand the concept of advertising. Talk to children about why they might want a product. Is it because they saw it on television, or because it includes a toy, or maybe it is the eye catching packaging.
Goal for the month (choose one or more)
- The next time you are in the grocery store, look at how food is marketed to children.
- Develop a plan to avoid children begging for highly marketed foods in the grocery store.
- Talk to older children about the influence of food marketing.
Please share the examples you see regarding food marketing to children in the comment section.