This week , Yale's Rudd Center (www.cerealfacts.org) put out a report on kid's cereals looking at everything from ingredient content (compared to adult cereal), marketing messages and their reach. I recommend reading this study or at least the executive summary but provided a little "food for thought" from the executive summary below. If this leaves you wondering what to feed your kids or yourself, visit www.ashleykoff.com for examples of companies that receive the AKA stamp of better nutrition -- for kids and adults.
"In spite of their pledges to reduce unhealthy marketing to children, the large cereal companies continue to target children with their least healthy products. Child cereals contain 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber and 60% more sodium when compared to adult cereals. In fact, not one cereal that is marketed directly to children in the United States would be allowed to advertise to children on television in the United Kingdom. Only one, Cascadian Farm Clifford Crunch, would be eligible to be included in cereals offered through the USDA Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. In addition, 42% contain potentially harmful artificial food dyes. All companies do have more nutritious cereals in their portfolios, but these cereals are marketed only to adults."
Why (look at) cereals? Children are exposed to marketing for a great variety of foods, but cereals hold a special place:
■ Cereal companies spend more money than any other packaged food category in marketing their products to children ($229 million in 2006). Therefore, understanding the nutrition quality and marketing practices of cereal products is crucial.
■ Earlier research from 2006 and 2007 demonstrated that cereals marketed to children are less healthy overall and have higher sugar content than those marketed to adults.
■ Children's exposure to cereal advertising on television also exceeds that for any other category and represents 25% of all food and beverage advertising seen by children.
■ Cereal companies disproportionately advertise to children; children see twice as many television ads for cereals compared to adults.
■ Cereal companies sponsor large advergaming websites targeted to children and cereal ads appear frequently on children's websites. Internet marketing has been studied far less extensively than television, but health advocates raise concerns about the significant amount of time young people spend interacting with advertising content online.
■ In 2007, three of the four major cereal companies pledged to reduce marketing of less healthy cereals to children, offering an opportunity to examine the impact of industry self-regulation.