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Food and Beverage Companies Continue to Raise the Bar When Advertising to Kids


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Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative report shows marked progress in 2008 through self-regulation

The second annual report issued by the Council of Better Business Bureaus on the progress of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative shows that, because of the self-regulatory efforts of the nation’s leading food and beverage producers, there has been a continued significant shift in children’s advertising in the United States toward the promotion of healthier dietary choices and lifestyles.

As outlined in the report, participants have been reformulating products and introducing new products and meals to meet well-established, science-based nutrition standards. The CFBAI also welcomed three new food companies in the last year, bringing the total number of participants to 16 and expanding the program’s market place coverage.

“Three years ago BBB and leading food companies launched the Initiative to use advertising to promote healthier dietary choices and lifestyles to kids,” said Elaine D. Kolish, BBB vice president and director of the CFBAI. “Because of the Initiative, most of the major children’s food marketers now use transparent, science-based nutrition standards to determine what products to advertise to children. As a result, more child-directed advertising now is for products that have fewer calories and are lower in fats, sugars and sodium.”
The progress report covers pledge compliance and highlights the major changes that were undertaken by participants to continually raise the bar in promoting healthier options to kids. Since the previous report was issued:

  • Three more companies joined the CFBAI: Dannon Company Inc., Nestlé USA and Post Foods LLC.
  • BBB’s review and independent monitoring found that CFBAI participants did an excellent job of implementing and complying with their individual pledges during 2008. There were only a few compliance issues, which have been remedied.
  • Several participants enhanced their nutrition criteria to make their pledges more rigorous, adding or lowering sodium limits or adding positive nutrient requirements.
  • Others reformulated products, reducing their sugar, fat or sodium content, or introduced new products that met their BBB-approved standards.

"The companies that voluntarily participate in the Initiative are committed to improving the nutritional profiles of their products.” added Kolish. “Many childhood favorites were reformulated or are no longer advertised to children and, because the nutrition standards are competition-driven, some participants have already revised their criteria to make them even more rigorous. Notably, Cadbury, the Coca-Cola Company, Hershey and Mars do not advertise to kids at all, and Nestlé USA no longer advertises Willy Wonka candies to children." 

The report also provides an informal analysis of the nutritional content of products advertised during a randomly-selected sample of 54 hours of children’s television programming. CFBAI’s analysis found that, in addition to meeting participants’ pledge-approved nutrition standards, 83 percent of the advertising for participants’ child-directed food and beverage products in the sample provided at least a “good” source of a nutrient shortfall for children (vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, or fiber), or provided at least a half serving of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, or 8 grams of whole grains.

Analysis of Advertising During 54 Hours of Children’s Programming: CFBAI Participant Child-Directed Ads/Products That Provide at Least a Good Source of a Nutrient Shortfall for Children or a Food Group to be Encouraged
(Note: some products were advertised multiple times so product and ad numbers are not the same.)

As detailed in the report, on company-owned, child-directed Web sites the participants limited branded products to those that met the participants’ nutrition standards, and they generally also provided healthy lifestyle messaging in conjunction with those Web sites. The report also includes examples of how advertising and products have changed since the CFBAI was launched.

The progress evaluates the compliance of the 12 participants (Burger King Corporation; Cadbury Adams USA LLC; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; General Mills Inc.; The Hershey Company; Kraft Foods Global, Inc.; Mars Snackfoods US, LLC; McDonald’s USA, LLC; PepsiCo, Inc.; and Unilever) whose pledges were in effect during 2008—the first full year that participants’ pledges were operational.

This report also describes the steps that three other participants (The Dannon Company Inc., Kellogg Company and Nestlé USA) took to prepare for implementing their pledges, which went into effect on January 1, 2009. Post Foods LLC joined the CFBAI effective October 1, 2009 so this report does not include information about its pledge compliance.

A pdf copy of the progress report is available online at http://www.bbb.org/us/children-food-beverage-advertising-initiative.  

Company pledges and up-to-date nutritional and product charts are available at http://www.bbb.org/us/children-food-beverage-advertising-initiative.  Stay on top of CFBAI developments and participant news by subscribing to our e-newsletter. Sign up by sending an email to kidsiniative@council.bbb.org.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Elaine Kolish, BBB vice president and director of the CFBAI, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.

About the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
The Council of Better Business Bureaus launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in November 2006 to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles. The 16 participants of the CFBAI are Burger King Corp.; Cadbury Adams USA LLC; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; The Dannon Company; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Company; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Global, Inc.; Mars Snackfoods US, LLC; McDonald’s USA, LLC; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Post Foods, LLC; and Unilever United States. For more information about the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and to view the pledges of the participants visit: http://www.bbb.org/us/children-food-beverage-advertising-initiative.
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