Nearly 35 percent of young people consume fast food on a daily basis in the US. Marketing is a key factor that leads to this growing trend.
A recent study carried out by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the University of Connecticut, has suggested a significant association between the number of fast food advertisements to children and rates of obesity in this age group.
The research examined Nielsen data of 274 fast-food restaurants on how they allocated the budgets for marketing and how young people are affected by these campaigns. Also, the authors analyzed top advertisements on how they targeted children from different demographic groups, including black, white, and Hispanic.
According to the data, the budgets for fast food advertisements in 2019 were around $5 billion, an increase of more than $400 million in 7 years. These campaigns particularly targeted young people, especially Hispanic and Black children.
The specific statistics were as following:
– 775 advertisements targeted people between 12 and 17 years old
– 787 advertisements targeted people between 6 and 11 years old
– 830 advertisements targeted people between 2 and 2 years old
On average, each young person saw more than 2 fast food advertisements a day on television.
Among these, advertisements specially tailored for Hispanic and Black children tended to promote large-portion and low-cost deals.
Out of drink and food marketing, around 40 percent of the advertisements for young people promoted fast food. Over time, disparities in commercials targeting different races or ethnicities kept increasing.
The findings suggest that fast-food companies tended to show their advertisements during the time when Black or Hispanic children watched TV more than their white counterparts.
Also, it is worth noting that Black children tend to watch TV more regularly than white children. Many studies have shown a link between high screen time and the increasing risk of obesity.
Scientists believe that children from 2 to 7 years old may be manipulated unfairly by advertisements. Also, they would recall messages from these campaigns, making them more vulnerable to changes in behaviors or thoughts, especially consumption habits of fast food.
The research did not measure overall effects in the long run, but it raised some concerns. The government, fast food companies, scientists, and parents should take action together to reduce the negative effects of these harmful products on the future generation.