MONDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A new report claims that the
makers of sugar-laden drinks such as sodas, sports drinks, energy
drinks and fruit drinks take direct aim at children, particularly
black and Hispanic kids, in their marketing campaigns.
Despite promises to improve their marketing practices, these
companies still use tactics such as rewards for buying sugary
drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions and
product placement in social media, according to researchers at the
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
The findings were slated to be presented Monday at the American
Public Health Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
"We found that children's exposure to TV ads for full-calorie soda doubled from 2008 to 2010," Jennifer Harris, report author and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, said during a morning news conference. "We also found that energy drinks are heavily marketed to children and teens."
Companies are reaching children not only by direct advertising,
but through product placement on prime-time TV, the Internet and
Facebook, Harris said.
Not only do beverage makers target children, but they also make
health claims even though their products contain sugar, artificial
sweeteners and caffeine, added Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of
the Rudd Center. Many parents think sweetened sports drinks and
fruit drinks are good for their children, she noted, and "they also
believe the nutrient claims about vitamin C and real and natural
ingredients, and interpret those as meaning that these products are
"One of the things we were surprised to learn is that some of these products marketed to children contain both artificial sweeteners and sugar," she added.
To reach these conclusions, the authors looked at the marketing
strategies of 14 companies and almost 600 products.
Highlights of the report include:
Reacting to the report, Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the
American Beverage Association, said in a statement that "the people
at our member companies -- many of whom are parents themselves --
are delivering on their commitment to advertise only water, juice
and milk on programming for children under 12."
"In fact, recent research supports that there has been a dramatic change in food and beverage advertising during children's programming, with advertisements for soft drinks decreasing by 96 percent between 2004 and 2010 alone," she said. "This report is another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity when both common sense and widely accepted science have shown that the reality is far more complicated."
Samantha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center
for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., said that "the
Rudd Center study quantifies what most of us already know: that
kids are drinking too much sugar. Still, the results are unsettling
Parents need to be educated that sodas, energy drinks and fruit
drinks are not healthy for children or teens, Heller said. "They
are not healthy for anyone, actually," she added. "The food
companies need to devote some resources to not only changing their
marketing practices but also to reformulating at least some of
their products to make them healthier."
In the meantime, parents need to stop bringing sugar-sweetened
beverages into the home, Heller said. "There is no need to give a
toddler soda or fruit drinks. They will be perfectly happy with
water or low-fat milk or soy milk if that is what they are used
to," she said. "And while your teens may complain that there are no
more sodas or fruit drinks in the house, they will get used to
Because these findings were presented at a medical meeting, the
data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more information on healthy drinks for kids, visit the
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