retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing “sweeping new guidelines” that seem designed to “push the food industry to overhaul how it advertises cereal, soda pop, snacks, restaurant meals and other foods to children.

“Citing an epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.

“Regulators are asking food makers and restaurant companies to make a choice: make your products healthier or stop advertising them to youngsters.”

The story notes that the guidelines - which are meant to be voluntary, but are expected to create considerable pressure on manufacturers - cover television, print, online, movie and television product placements, fast food and virtually every marketing alternative available to suppliers.

The Wall Street Journal writes that “by one estimate, the new standards would affect advertisements on 1,700 television programs.”

The Times notes that “Kellogg, the company that makes Froot Loops, said in a statement that it would review the proposal and that it was committed to improving ‘the nutrition credentials’ of its products’.”

The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) responded to the proposals by announcing the results of a new study, suggesting that “the average number of food and beverage advertisements that children 2 to 11 viewed on children’s programming fell by 50 percent between 2004 and 2010.”

The study says, specifically, that advertisements for cookies fell by 99%, advertisements for soft drinks fell by 96% and advertisements for fruit and vegetables juices increased by 199%, advertisements for gum and mints fell by nearly 100% and advertisements for candy fell by 68%, advertisements for snack bars fell by nearly 100% and advertisements for all snacks fell by 71%.
KC's View:
This has the potential of creating an “us vs. them” environment, which isn’t good for anyone. I just hope that the facts - and not hysterics, on both sides - carry the day .... because it remains a fact that childhood obesity is a major problem in this country.

I’m glad these are voluntary guidelines. It won’t matter what governments or manufacturers do if parents don’t show a little common sense about what they let their kids eat, and ultimately it is up to us to show a little backbone and say “no” once in a while.