Big food and beverage companies, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to attract and retain loyal customers. Building brand loyalty starts in childhood and adolescence, and companies know that. Marketing of unhealthy products, as we saw (and still see in some cases) with tobacco and now with food and drinks, is one of the great hurdles to improving population health.
Epidemics of diet-related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are all in some way influenced by sugar consumption. Yet, the marketing of high-sugar products, like soda, energy drinks, and fruit drinks, are more ubiquitous than ever. Our hyper-connected culture only reinforces this.
The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently released one of its flagship reports on where, how, and for whom the $866 million in sugary drink marketing is spent.
Here are a few of the highlights:
Advertising spending on sugary drink categories is down 7% from 2010 to 2013. But, as you’ll notice in the graph below, more is being spent on some products now than three years ago. Regular soda and energy drinks are the two big ones.
Exposure to TV ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks is on the decline for all age groups. However, preschoolers, children, and teens still see a sizable number of TV ads – 144, 169, and 287 respectively.
Sugary drink and energy drink TV advertising is also less in 2013 compared to 2010 across age groups. But again, when looking at specific companies, some were viewed more than others, such as Pepsi, whose advertisements were viewed the most number of times across all age groups (preschoolers, children, and teens).
Social media advertising exploded between 2011 and 2014. Facebook likes of soda, energy drink and other sugary drink brands and products more than tripled from 2011 to 2014. The jump in Twitter followers over the same time period was even more striking, increasing more than 10-fold.
Beverage companies continue to target advertising to Hispanic youth. Pepsi, for example, increased its Spanish-language TV advertising spending by an astounding 3667%. Hispanic preschoolers, children, and teens all viewed more advertisements on Spanish-Language TV in 2013 then in 2010. This type of targeted marketing of unhealthy drinks to Hispanic children and youth is undoubtedly playing some role in the increasing trend of overweight and obesity among these groups.