While the beverage industry has cut back on the marketing of unhealthy drinks to children on television and websites overall, a study has found that they’ve actually increased marketing to black and Latino kids and teens. This is unfortunate, as children from these backgrounds have higher rates of obesity as well as chronic illnesses linked to drinking soda, like diabetes, as compared to caucasian children and teens.
According to the new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, in 2013, companies like PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper, Snapple Group and Coca-Cola spent 866 million dollars in advertising for sugar-filled drinks and energy beverages. The study analyzed how 23 major beverage companies market their fruit drinks, soda and flavored water, including how much advertising most kids and teenagers are exposed to.
Among the most disturbing findings was that black children and teens saw more than twice as many advertisements for sugary drinks and energy drinks on TV compared with white children and teens last year. The gap has increased over the past three years, as advertising to white youth has declined faster than advertising to black youth during that time period.
While black kids and teens have been found to watch 40 percent more TV than white children, the numbers suggest that the industry is purchasing ads specifically during programming watched disproportionately by black youth. Big Soda is doing the same to target Hispanic youth too – on Spanish-language television, advertising skyrocketed 44 percent from 2011.
Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Yale Rudd Center and lead author of the study, remarked: “[Black and Latino] populations suffer more from diabetes, obesity and other negative health consequences from the consumption of sugary beverages; it’s a huge problem in those communities. These companies all say they have practices for responsible marketing to children in black and Latino communities, but it’s not very responsible to be marketing products that are so detrimental to them. We are really hoping to get companies to pay attention not just to the market opportunities, but also the public health consequences of what they’re doing.”
Harris also noted that minorities represent a massive consumer base for Big Soda. Coca-Cola, for example, has estimated that young, multicultural consumers could be responsible for 86 percent of its growth through 2020. Celebrity sponsors such as Beyonce and Pitbull promoting drinks like Pepsi and Dr. Pepper have also helped to bolster the industry’s allure.
Of course, the allure of almighty dollar has almost always taken precedence over the health of citizens. This means it’s up to all of us to fight back.
-The Alternative Daily