October 31, 2011 / 5:01 AM / 8 years ago

Soft drink makers target US children, teens - study

* Kids' exposure to soda ads doubled from 2008-2010 -study
    * Ads target black, Hispanic children - study
    * Many fruit drinks are as calorific as sodas - study
    By Martinne Geller
    Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. children and teenagers are seeing
far more soda advertising than before, with blacks and
Hispanics being major targets, as marketers have expanded
online, a study released on Monday found.
    The report, from the Yale University Rudd Center for Food
Policy & Obesity, also found that many fruit drinks and energy
drinks, popular with teenagers, have as much added sugar and
calories as full-calorie soda.
    Children's and teens' exposure to full-calorie soda ads on
television doubled from 2008 to 2010, the report found, fueled
by increases from Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple
Group Inc .
    Children were exposed to 22 percent fewer ads for PepsiCo
Inc sugary drinks, it found.
    Black children and teens saw 80 to 90 percent more ads than
white children, including twice as many for the energy drink
5-Hour Energy and Coca-Cola's vitamin water and Sprite.
    Over the same period, Hispanic children saw 49 percent more
ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language
television, and Hispanic teens saw 99 percent more ads.
    "Our children are being assaulted by these drinks that are
high in sugar and low in nutrition," said Yale's Kelly
Brownell, co-author of the report. "The companies are marketing
them in highly aggressive ways."
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about
15 percent of children are overweight or obese. Children today
are likely to have shorter life spans than their parents, which
will affect their ability to work and pay taxes, while
threatening to drive up healthcare costs.
    When it comes to energy drinks such as Red Bull and Amp,
the marketing is skewed toward young people, even though the
American Academy of Pediatrics says highly caffeinated energy
drinks are not appropriate for children and adolescents, the
report said.
    In 2010, teens saw 18 percent more TV ads, and heard 46
percent more radio ads for energy drinks than adults did.
    Brownell, an outspoken critic of the food and beverage
industries, said there has been a lot of research on the issue
of marketing unhealthy food to children, especially since first
lady Michelle Obama made fighting childhood obesity her
signature issue.
    But Monday's report is the first, he said, that analyzed
data from several firms including Nielsen to measure the full
picture of youth exposure to marketing and advertising.
    Brownell said it was important to consider the online
interaction children have with brands, especially since they
tend to stay online for longer than they watch TV commercials.
    The report found, for example, that 21 sugary drink brands
had YouTube channels in 2010 with more than 229 million views
by June 2011. Coca-Cola, it found, was the most popular brand
on Facebook, with more than 30 million fans.
    The most-visited websites operated by soft drink brands
were MyCokeRewards.com and Capri Sun, which is owned by Kraft
Foods Inc .
    Other findings in the report include analysis of drinks
themselves. For example, it said an 8-ounce (225-gram) serving
of a full-calorie fruit drink has 110 calories and seven
teaspoons of sugar -- the same amount found in an 8-ounce
serving of a soda or energy drink.
    The full report is available at www.sugarydrinkfacts.org.
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