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Tighter rules set for unhealthy food marketing to children

Eleven of CEOs of the world’s leading food and non-alcoholic beverage companies and members of the International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA), have announced global commitments in the field of food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing to children.

These companies include the likes of The Coca Cola Company, McDonald’s, Mondelez International, Nestle, Pepsico, Unilever, General Mills, Group Bimbo, Ferrero, Mars and Kelloggs.

This new ban includes extending the bans onto a presence in media that target kids from TV, print etc to include: radio, cinema, direct marketing, mobile and SMS marketing, interactive games, DVD/CD-ROM and product placement. There will also be restrictions on the use of advertising techniques designed to appeal to kids where the products do not meet agreed nutritional criteria.

The ban on unhealthy food marketing has been a global move that has been taking place in the recent years. (Read also: No more fast food marketing for children and what Singapore authorities have been mulling in Deadline set for curb on unhealthy food marketing.)

These announcements are a part of a broader package of measures sent in a letter to World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan. It will guide companies’ health and wellness strategies over the coming years.

Based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation, as national governments and other organisations designed to improve global health, the package includes a commitment to product reformulation and innovation. It also contains a common global approach to the provision of nutrition information on pack, at point of sale and through other channels by the end of 2016.

The guideline also includes an expansion of IFBA’s global marketing policy, in place since 2009. The guideline specified that members would only advertise products that meet “better-for-you” criteria or refrain from all product marketing to children under 12 years old.

The enhanced 2014 policy strengthens the policy in three core areas:

  • Firstly, the expanded global policy will cover virtually all media, including radio cinema, direct marketing, mobile and SMS marketing, interactive games, DVD/CD-ROM and product placement.
  • Secondly, the new policy will ensure that use of certain marketing techniques, such as licensed characters, movie tie-ins and celebrities that appeal to children under 12, in product marketing communications that are primarily directed to children under 12, are only for products meeting the “better-for-you” criteria.
  • Finally, under the previous policy and in the absence of one single global set of nutritional guidelines, the companies that advertise “better-for-you” products to children under 12 defined their own nutrition criteria, based on acceptable international and national guidelines. Members now commit to working towards harmonising nutrition criteria to ensure that “better for you” foods are based on robust common standards, as part of expanding pledge efforts on a regional or national basis as they have already done in a number of countries, including in the European Union, the U.S.A. and Singapore.

These new standards for marketing to children, which come into force by the end of 2016, will constitute the minimum global criteria for all IFBA companies.

“The major food and beverage companies have strict controls in place on how they communicate with younger audiences. This latest strengthening of the IFBA global policy demonstrates the extent to which IFBA members are taking their responsibilities seriously when it comes to marketing to children,”  Stephan Loerke, managing director of the World Federation of Advertisers said.

Importantly, these criteria will be used to update local “pledge programme” initiatives, which are based on the IFBA global policy but which also bring in local companies in order to extend market coverage.

Local “pledge programmes” are already in place in over fifty markets worldwide representing roughly three billion of the world’s population, including Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the EU, the Gulf Cooperation Council, India, South Africa, Turkey and the U.S.A.

Local schemes extend policy coverage well beyond IFBA membership.

For example, the EU Pledge covers over 80% of the market while the US Children’s Food and Beverage Initiative covers roughly 80% of food marketing spend in the US. IFBA commits to independently monitoring compliance with these new commitments.

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