Report reveals candy, snacks as most advertised kids products

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising, Nutrition

Food is the top product seen advertised by children, with American
kids watching an average of 17 food ads every day, according to a
new study.

Released yesterday by the non-profit group Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the new report aims to help inform the growing debate between government, industry, the media and health groups on the link between childhood obesity and food advertising. The study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States​, combines content analysis of TV ads with detailed data about children's viewing habits, to provide an estimate of the number and type of TV ads seen by children of various ages. For each age group studied, food was the top product advertised, with half of all ads shown during children's programs being for food. Some 32 percent of all ads seen by 2-7 year olds were for food, while 25 percent of ads seen by 8-12 year olds and 22 percent of ads seen by 13-17 year olds were for food. The study found that tweens aged 8-12 see the most food ads on TV - an average of 21 ads a day. Teenagers see slightly fewer ads, at 17 a day, while children aged 2-7 see 12 food ads a day. The study, which was based on an analysis of 1,638 hours of television content and 8,854 food ads on top television networks, also confirmed widespread concerns that the most heavily advertised food products for kids are candy and snacks. These make up a total of 34 percent of all food ads targeting children, while 28 percent are for cereal and 10 percent are for fast foods. In addition, 4 percent of ads seen by children are for dairy products and one percent for fruit juices. Of the 8,854 ads reviewed in the study, there were none for fruits or vegetables targeting children or teens. The new report comes at a time when the issue of food advertising to children is attracting increasing scrutiny. Policymakers in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and agencies such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have called for changes in the advertising landscape, and US food and media industries are developing their own voluntary initiatives related to advertising food to children. Just last week, a new childhood obesity task force was launched by groups from the government, industry and media, as well as consumer advocacy groups, advertisers and health experts. Some of the nation's major food firms will be taking part in the initiative, including Kraft, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg's and PepsiCo. Health groups involved include the American Diabetes Association, the American Society for Nutrition and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Media or communications networks joining the initiative include Ion Media Networks, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Company and Sesame Workshop. Amongst other participants are also the Ad Council, Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The childhood obesity task force meeting was hosted by Senator Brownback, who also attended the forum in Washington DC yesterday where the KFF report was revealed. The report and a webcast of the session can be found here​.

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