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Rudd Radar

Trends in Television Food Advertising to Young People

June 5, 2014

The food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), has not resulted in reductions in the total number of food-related TV ads viewed by children under 12, according to a recent Rudd Report, “Trends in Television Food Advertising to Young People.”  The report also highlights how the majority of foods advertised to children and adolescents continue to be for unhealthy products. 

The report measured child and adolescent exposure to food and beverage advertising on TV from 2007, the first full year that CFBAI pledges were in effect. The report found:

  • The amount of food and beverage advertising to children under 12 on TV peaked in 2004 at 14 ads viewed per day. However, since 2007, ads viewed by children increased by 8%, averaging 13.1 ads per day in 2013.
  • Companies have stepped up advertising to adolescents, an older, but still vulnerable, group of children. In 2013, adolescents viewed on average 16.5 food ads per day on TV, an increase of 25% compared to 2007.
  • Fast food restaurants remained the most advertised category, representing approximately one quarter of food ads viewed by young people.
  • From 2007 to 2013 candy advertising to children doubled and candy advertising to adolescents increased by 2.7 times.
  • Children and adolescents continued to see the fewest ads for primarily healthy categories, including bottled water and fruits and vegetables, and advertising for these products declined from 2011 to 2013.

Despite their promises, the food industry has failed to make meaningful improvements in the amount and types of products advertised to young people on TV overall, assert the authors.

The report is co-authored by Cathryn R. Dembek, MBA, Rudd Center Research Associate; Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives; and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD.