Is Marketing to Kids Okay If It’s for Healthy Food?
When food brands market to children, we protest. It seems morally wrong to hock sugar cereals to 2-year-olds, doesn’t need? Children are impressionable and as such, marketing to children has been a topic of grand discussion.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Companies continue to use a wide variety of techniques to reach young people, and marketing campaigns are heavily integrated, combining traditional media, Internet, digital marketing, packaging, and often using cross-promotions with popular movies or TV characters across all of these. Those techniques are highly effective.”
In 2012, the fast food industry spent $4.6 billion in advertising, and much of that focus was on children and teens according to a report by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. Marketing of unhealthy foods to children is such an issue that even the World Health Organization has official recommendations for how to go about it appropriately.
But what if we market healthy foods?
It has been established that telling kids that a certain food is good for them isn’t the route to go if you want them eating more fruits and vegetables. As child obesity rates escalate, we find ourselves stuck without an answer to the question “how do we get kids to eat healthier foods?” Some brands are finding that the way to go is to use those same tactics of the fast food industry that we usually frown upon.
According to a story on NPR, grocers are attempting more junk food style marketing tactics and building out kid-focused snack sections. “Giant Eagle is in the process of installing the go-to kid sections in about 200 stores in the mid-Atlantic and Ohio. And Walmart is piloting the concept in 30 stores in California, with plans to roll it out to 1,500 stores later this fall,” reports NPR.
Such snacks include bags of baby carrots called Veggie Snackers. There’s a chili and lime flavoring that when you toss in the seasoning and shake the carrots around, makes the produce seem somewhat like a Dorito. “They give you that crunch and flavor,” Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse told NPR. “You’re going to lick your fingers, and get that same sensory [experience] you get with salty snacks.”
Dunn is in fact a former Coca Cola executive, so he knows what it takes to drive up demand. Which is why kid snack companies, who claim to be focused on healthy eating, are embracing the tactics once reserved for soda and junk food snacks. If kids won’t eat carrots then they’ll definitely eat ones that are crunchy and taste like chips right? It seems like there might just be a few things wrong with this picture; do we have to make heathy food something that it’s not simply so that kids will eat it?
But is this marketing justifiable as long as the brands are selling a healthier product? Ultimately, they’re still marketing to a young, impressionable age group. Of course bags of baby carrots with special seasoning seem fun, but what about the regular carrots that are just a little farther down the grocery aisle? Why don’t they get a special marketing campaign?
Because they’re real food and not a food product. Sidenote: baby carrots are required to be dipped in a bath of chlorine water as an antimicrobial treatment. You didn’t see that on the package marketing, now did you?
While families will rejoice that there are better snack options available, these snack options are still single-packaged food products. Kids need produce and whole foods for a healthy diet, none of which gets a sexy marketing spin, and while marketing healthy food to them might seem better than tempting them with junk foods, employing those tactics is still fueling an industry that’s based off of profit.
Photo Credit: Fruitnet.com