Sugar invades children’s breakfast products

A recent study by a UOC researcher analyzes the advertising of children’s breakfast products and their nutritional value.

Spain is one of the most acclaimed countries for the healthy nutritional value of the classic Mediterranean diet. Nevertheless, ultra-processed food products are increasingly present in the pantries of thousands of families, which is causing an increase in the rates of childhood obesity. Part of the blame is on advertising directed at children, According to a recent study () prepared by Mireia Montaña, professor and researcher at the Information and Communication Sciences Studies at the (UOC).

The study analyzed 355 campaigns of 117 breakfast products advertised between 2015 and 2019. The results showed one ofThe presence of high sugar foods in advertisements for children compared to advertising directed at adults. Specifically, the average sugar present in the products of both categories is 36.20 and 10.25%, respectively. In fact, the products most present in breakfast ads are cookies, which account for 60% of the total. It is followed by chocolate products such as spreads or cocoa powder (25% of ads for children).

Although adherence to the Mediterranean diet is maintained among the adult population, it is gradually being lost among children and young people. These increasingly prefer to have more industrial products prepared with high sugar content for breakfast, ”says Montaña. For her part, Mònika Jiménez, Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and co-author of another study on a similar topic, comments: “the further the product is from what would be the healthy nutritional parameters, the more the advertising discourse is based on hedonism or in happiness, tending more and more to persuasion (…). This is especially harmful in certain audiences, such as minors, because they are very vulnerable to these stimuli ”.

The effect pester power

The effect pester power it refers to “the influence of children on their parents’ shopping habits”. This causes sugary and ultra-processed children’s products end up forming part of the whole family’s diet. Children, for their part, being more vulnerable to advertising, become more insistent consumers.

According to Professors Montaña and Jiménez, television is the star channel to achieve an attraction effect towards these types of products. The data of the study reflect a presence of the commercials in TV of 39%, in radio, of 28%; on the internet, 18%; in press, 6%; in magazines, 5%; in outdoor advertising, 2%, and in the cinema, 0.56%.

Solutions and legal framework

The two experts point to the need to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods directed at young children with fragile critical thinking. In Spain, there is a regulatory framework that was developed in line with the strategy (Nutrition, Physical Activity and Prevention of Obesity). This is the PAOS Code, which, according to the UOC, “aims to regulate advertising aimed at minors to avoid promoting childhood obesity”. However, brands manage to circumvent these regulations by claiming that their ads are also aimed at adults and fall into various time slots.

Other alternatives to stop this situation are better nutrition education for both parents and children, as well as la rise in taxes on products with low nutritional value or high in sugar.

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Source: Marketing Directo by

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