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Unilever will cease marketing of F&B to children below 16 years old

Unilever will cease marketing of F&B to children below 16 years old

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Unilever will cease marketing food and beverages to children under the age of 16 years old, across both traditional media and social media, by January 2023. This comes as part of the brand's update to its global principles for responsible marketing to children. Currently, in most countries in the world, the food and beverage industry restricts marketing to children under 13 years old. 

Unilever's enhanced principles include:

1. Not targeting children under 16 years old with any marketing or social media communications;
2. Not collecting or storing data on children under 16; and
3. Not using influencers, celebrities or social media stars who are under the age of 16 or primarily appeal to children under the age of 16.

The principles will apply across Unilever’s food and refreshment portfolio, which includes ice cream. Matt Close, president ice cream, Unilever said that he recognises the power that social media and influencer marketing can have on children's choices.

"We believe it’s important to raise the bar on responsible marketing to a minimum age of 16 years old across both traditional and social media. By making these changes, our goal is to continue to reduce children’s exposure to advertising from the food and beverage industry, and instead support parents to select appropriate treats, to be enjoyed from time to time," he added.

According to Unilever, it first applied specific measures for the marketing of its food and refreshment products to children in 2003 and has continued to lead in adopting new and improved principles. The last major update was in 2020 when Unilever said it will stop marketing and advertising foods and refreshments to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and under the age of 13 via social media channels

Unilever’s marketing and point of sale communications comply with all relevant country laws and regulations, as well as self-regulatory codes. In some countries, including for example the UK and Portugal, existing codes and laws mean that these new principles are already either partially met, fully met or exceeded.

Unilever is not the only brand to let parents have a say as well. Nestlé currently does not advertise to children under the age of six. It also introduced stricter nutritional criteria for foods and beverages marketed to children age six through 12.

For example, it does not market confectionery, biscuits or ice cream to children. It also works with public health organisations, governments and other stakeholders to tackle the obesity problem. Two years ago, the brand claims to have reached over 33 million through its Nestlé for Healthier Kids programme that helps parents and caregivers raise healthier kids.

Meanwhile, on the social media front, TikTok launched its family safety mode in 2020, which links a parent's TikTok account to their teen's. Once enabled, parents will be able to control how long their teen can spend on TikTok each day, limit who can send messages to the connected account or turn off direct messaging completely and restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences, among others.

At the same time, YouTube is also working to ensure it is responsible with kids. Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki told Bloomberg in an interview last year that its efforts include providing parents with the flexibility to limit screen time and what content their children have access to. She also emphasised the importance of the platform to "give the tools back to parents for them to decide what is best for them and their family".

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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