(NaturalNews) A report released by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity finds that soft drink companies target black and Latino teens with ads for sugary drinks. The beverages identified by the Center as least healthy are also those most heavily promoted to children of color, researchers found.
Targeting teens and children of color
Targeted advertising results in black children and teens viewing 80 to 90 percent more soft drink ads compared with white youth. Between 2008 and 2010, the report states, "Hispanic children saw 49% more ads and teens saw 99% more ads on Spanish-language TV for sugary drinks and energy drinks."
Black children and teens were targeted with ads featuring black musicians, athletes and other celebrities. For example, in one television ad for Vitamin Water, rapper 50 Cent boasts of becoming "stankin rich" after creating his own flavor of the beverage. Thirty-eight percent of Gatorade TV ads featured only famous black athletes. The Rudd Center report found that some brands disproportionately target black teens. Black teenagers view two-and-a-half times as many ads as their white peers for Vitamin Water, Sprite, Sunny D, 5-hour Energy, and Mountain Dew.
Methods of reaching youth in Latino households include using Spanish-language broadcast outlets with ads featuring Hispanic celebrities or emphasizing soccer. Coca-Cola has stated publicly it will not advertise in TV, radio and print programming aimed at children younger than twelve. Yet Coca-Cola Classic accounted for 39% of all sugary drink and energy drink ads on Spanish-language TV. Coca-Cola was the most frequent sugary drink brand advertised to teens on Spanish-language radio. One Coca-Cola Spanish-language ad featured a mother "rewarding" her son for studying with a Coca-Cola Classic.
The report points out that the culturally targeted advertising takes place online as well as in broadcast ads. Eighty-two percent of the pages at Gatorade.com focus on black athletes. The Spanish version of Kool-Aid's website emphasizes family activities and promotes Kool-Aid as more affordable, less sugary choice for parents to serve their children instead of soda.
Although children and teens of color are bombarded by culturally specific advertising, all youth are subject to an ongoing stealth marketing campaign by soft drink advertisers. Children and teens often receive marketing messages in forms difficult for their parents to monitor. Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center, wrote in an article for The Atlantic that "Companies have shifted from traditional media such as television ads to newer forms that engage youth, often without their parents awareness. This is done through rewards for purchasing sugary drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions, product placements, social media, and smartphones."
Brownell also points to the misleading ways in which sugary drinks are packaged: "Fruit-drink packages, for instance, typically have pictures of real fruit, even though these drinks contain no more than 5 percent real fruit juice. Many parents and children are unaware that fruit drinks can be just as high in calories and added sugar as soda." Also, as Brownell writes, "More than half of all sugary drinks and energy drinks boast of having positive ingredients on their packages. Sixty-four percent feature "all-natural" or "real" ingredients, sometimes "real" sugar. Parents may see these as healthier products than they are."
The usual industry apologist statements followed the recent Rudd Center report. The American Beverage Association released a statement defending beverage marketing practices and denying that soft drinks are a major cause of obesity.
NaturalNews has reported previously on the strong link between soft drinks and childhood obesity epidemic. Soft drinks have also been shown to cause a host of other health problems, including tooth decay, pancreatic cancer and gout. In addition to the health dangers of toxic chemical sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, many fruit-flavored beverages also contain flame retardant (http://www.naturalnews.com/034448_brominated...). These beverages are not healthy for any age group, particularly not children who are establishing patterns of health or illness which will affect them for the rest of their lives.