Children can be convinced to eat their greens if they are advertised in the same way as junk food, according to new research by Ohio State University in the US.

Researchers said marketing can have “positive and negative effects” and that the might of the advertising industry could be harnessed for good.

This does not surprise me.

A 2009 Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents published by the US Federal Trade Commission showed that $1.8 billion was spent on marketing that specifically targeted the ‘youth’ market (children aged between 2 and 17 years of age) by 48 of the major US food and beverage companies.

The companies ordered to supply their information for the review included Burger King Holdings, Inc., McDonald’s Corporation, Wendy’s International Inc., YUM! Brands (i.e., KFC Corporation, Long John Silver’s, Inc., Pizza Hut, Inc., and Taco Bell Corp.) and Doctor’s Associates, Inc. (Subway restaurants).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the greatest marketing spend was on ‘restaurant food’ (40% of the youth marketing spend), followed by carbonated beverages (22% of the youth marketing spend).

Marketing of fruits and vegetables equated to just 0.4% of the youth marketing spend – in other words, for every $100 spent on advertising food to children and adolescents, just 40 cents is spent on fruit and veg.

Super Sprowtz

The Ohio State University, research was based on three experiments at 10 state schools in New York state.

In one experiment they wrapped the bottom part of the salad bar with a banner depicting Super Sprowtz, a fictional cartoon team of fun-loving characters with super powers.

In another experiment they played Super Sprowtz videos in the canteen. In the third experiment they tried both tactics.

The results of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that in schools with the salad bar banners, the number of kids taking vegetables from the salad bars almost doubled. In those schools that had characters on the salad bar and on video, veggie selection more that tripled.

The researchers saw no significant improvement in schools with videos alone.

Lead researcher, Professor Andrew Hanks said: “If we put the time and good resources into marketing healthy choices to kids, it can work.”

Sadly food marketing continues to focus on processed junk foods and a recent study by New York University found that dozens of celebrities and pop stars endorse full calorie fizzy drinks. They include Beyonce, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Calvin Harris, Nicki Minaj, One Direction and Shakira.


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