Nine food manufacturers have joined with Kellogg's and early program adopter Kraft Foods in agreeing to change how they market to children younger than 12 years of age. The heat is on to combat childhood obesity, widely seen as a threat of epidemic proportions. This food manufacturer's initiative will possibly head off attempts to address the problem through regulation and/or legislation.
FTC Chair Deborah Platt Majoras said, "While changes in food marketing alone will not solve the nation's childhood obesity problem, these actions will help make a healthy choice the easy choice." As a general rule, companies will run ads on children's media for food meeting certain nutritional benchmarks, and will curtail the use of popular children's characters to do the selling, except for nutritious items.
Some companies have already curtailed advertising aimed at preteens; others joining in the pledge are General Mills, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo., Campbells Soup, Cadbury Adams, The Hershey Co., Unilever and Masterfoods USA. Kraft Foods has already been following such a program since 2005, according to the Associated Press. Majoras said that these companies account for just about two-thirds of all food advertising aimed at children.
SmartMedia observation: Media companies do not appear to be sweating this development. The manufacturers still have marketing money to spend, and besides the option of pushing their nutritious products, they have a secondary option: according to the New York Times many are looking at reformulating some products to bring them up to nutritional snuff. Any voluntary initiative which can keep Washington out of the mix is a good thing, particularly if it can be done without impacting the bottom line.