Food marketers are getting pushed into an ever tighter corner as anxiety about the obesity epidemic rises.
Food marketers are getting pushed into an ever tighter corner as anxiety about the obesity epidemic rises. Governments are ramping up the pressure, with new regulations and taxes. In Ireland, for example, the Broadcasting Authority is seeking to stop the advertising of high-fat cheeses to children. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has generated headlines for his proposal to ban the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces. And we’ll see more fat taxes, one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012: In France, Denmark and Hungary, consumers now pay added taxes on sweetened drinks; foods with high levels of fat, sugar and salt; and high-fat foods, respectively. Businesses are also seeking to limit the profile of brands deemed unhealthy: The Walt Disney Co. recently announced that kid-themed programming would no longer carry TV and radio ads for foods that don’t meet its guidelines.
To stave off further limitations, industry groups are coming up with self-regulations. In the U.S., the Children’s Food and Beverage Initiative—helmed by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, partnering with corporations including McDonald’s, Kraft and PepsiCo—has outlined restrictions for ads targeting kids that would go into effect in 2014. Participating companies will typically only advertise products that provide an essential children’s nutrient and have lower levels of calories, fats, sugars and sodium. Third-party validation may be a solution for some marketers. Subway recently became the first restaurant chain to sign up for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Meal Certification logo, which will be displayed next to qualifying options. And some brands are convening expert panels to help them reformulate their offerings, such as Jamba Juice’s Healthy Living Council.
Consumers, meanwhile, appear to be of two minds, seeming to want more responsible brand policies along with the freedom to make their own choices, with one recent poll finding that just over half of New Yorkers oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s new plan