A new report from Yale University found that beverage companies are targeting children, particularly black and Hispanic youths, in their sales campaigns for sodas, fruit, energy and sports drinks.
A report released today from Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said that children and teens were exposed to double the amount of television ads for full-calorie and sugary beverages from 2008 to 2010. The study also reported that black children and teens saw 80- to 90 percent more ads compared with whites, including more than twice as many ads for Sprite, Mountain Dew, 5-hour Energy, and Vitamin Water. Hispanic children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, with Hispanic preschoolers seeing more ads for Coca-Cola Classic, Kool-Aid, 7 Up and Sunny Delight than their older counterparts.
"There is no doubt that children and teens need protection from the masterful and ubiquitous marketing by companies of products known to increase risk for obesity and diabetes," Kelly Brownell, co-author of the report wrote in an article for The Atlantic. "Industry's promise to behave better seems empty when the evidence shows they are exposing children even more to messages promoting high-sugar drinks."
In an effort to support Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign to end childhood obesity, leading beverage companies printed product calorie information on the front of bottles. Industry leaders also agreed to practice responsible marketing practices with respect to youthful viewers.
But the report found that companies rely heavily on social media sites to reach young people, who spend more time on websites than they do watching commercials. Twenty one beverage brands had YouTube channels in 2010 with more than 229 million views by June 2011, including 158 million views for the Red Bull channel alone.
Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, released a statement defending the industry's marketing practices and refuting the beverage industry's responsibility as the sole cause of childhood obesity.
"This report is another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity when both common sense and widely accepted science have shown that the reality is far more complicated," she said.
Additional report findings include misleading claims of natural ingredients and essential vitamins despite the use of artificial sweeteners.
For access to the full report, please visit sugarydrinkfacts.org.