* Advertising swings to cheaper media including mobile,
* Modest nutritional improvement for some advertised foods
* Thirty-two percent of U.S. children weigh too much
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 Food companies spent
considerably less to advertise to children in 2009 than they did
in 2006 a s they shifted to the Internet, and products pitched to
kids got slightly healthier, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
said in a report on Friday.
Cereal makers, fast food restaurants and other food
companies spent $1.79 billion to advertise to children aged 2 to
17 in 2009, down almost 20 percent, on an inflation-adjusted
basis, from $2.1 billion three years earlier, the FTC said.
But that drop did not come necessarily because companies
advertised less, but because they spent less on expensive
television advertising and 50 percent more on cheaper online
marketing, the FTC said.
Ninety percent of the 48 companies surveyed reported doing
some online marketing, the FTC said. The agency did not identify
The FTC also found "modest nutritional improvements" in the
foods advertised to children, in categories including cereals,
drinks and fast-food kids' meals.
Cereals advertised to children had a small drop in sugar
content and used more whole grains, while fast-food restaurants
advertised fewer unhealthy products, the FTC said.
But beverages remained an issue since the FTC found that
drinks marketed to children had an average of more than 20 grams
of added sugar per serving. That is slightly less than a candy
The FTC praised the Better Business Bureau's Children's Food
and Beverage Advertising Initiative for making "major strides"
in self-regulation, but urged more progress.
The CFBAI has nudged its members to improve foods advertised
to children, and said that cereals in particular were better
than those several years ago.
" This is an incremental process. As self-regulation has
matured, it's gotten more robust but, yes, there's room for
improvement," sa id CFBAI Director Elaine Kolish.
But health advocates have been unimpressed with the food
industry's efforts to reduce fat, sugar and salt in foods.
"Companies still aren't doing nearly enough to support
parents and protect kids," said Margo Wootan, director of
nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public
She was particularly critical of industry's decision to
allow companies to advertise popsicles and fruit roll-ups to
children. "The overwhelming majority of marketing is for foods
that will compromise children's health," she said.
The issue is a source of concern since about 17 percent of
U.S. children and teens are obese and another 15 percent are
overweight, according to 2010 data by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
The Obama administration, with its goal of containing
healthcare costs, has emphasized children's health. First Lady
Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign encourages children to
eat healthier food and exercise more.
Several government agencies, including the FTC, lost a
pitched battle last year to have the companies voluntarily end
all adveristing to children unless the food being promoted was
healthy fare such as whole grains, fresh fruits or vegetables.