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Marlene Schwartz, Ph.D.

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Parents to Cereal Companies: "Help Us Enjoy the Cereal Aisle by Marketing Your Healthier Products to Kids"

Posted: 10/05/2012 12:25 pm

There are a lot of great things about cold cereal for breakfast - it's fast, easy, and once your children are old enough to manage pouring milk, they can serve it to themselves while you are in the shower. But there is a downside - trying to get out of the cereal aisle without having a fight with your child over which brand to purchase.

Did you ever wonder why more parent-child conflicts occur in the cereal aisle than in the adjoining aisles that sell dried pasta, canned tuna, or paper towels?

That question has a $264 million dollar answer. That is the amount of money that the cereal companies spent in 2011 marketing their worst products directly to your child. We took a close look at last year's cereal advertising and found that in just one year, the average child saw 600 TV commercials and 2 billion online banner ads promoting children's cereals.

In a country where you can't pick up a paper without reading about the terrible state of children's nutrition and the importance of limiting added sugar, cereals marketed to children contain 56 percent more sugar, half as much fiber, and 50 percent more sodium than products marketed to adults. Honey Nut Cheerios contains a spoonful of sugar for every three spoonfuls of cereal!

That's why our group at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity teamed up with PreventObesity.net to launch a campaign that encourages cereal companies to promote only their healthier options to kids.

As part of the campaign, we created a letter that parents can easily send to cereal companies urging them to change their marketing strategy. The letter asks companies to market their most healthy products to children instead of the ones that should count as dessert. Is that too much to ask?

Within a week of the campaign's launch, over 10,500 people took action. Currently, the letter has been sent to companies by over 16,747 people. The amount of support received demonstrates that people are genuinely concerned with the nutrition and marketing of children's cereals, and parents are waking up to the fact that cereal companies cannot be trusted to make these changes on their own.

I encourage you to take part in our campaign and ask companies like General Mills, Kellogg, and Post to promote healthier options to kids. Fighting with your child over breakfast cereal is no way to start the day.

 
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