Children drink fewer sugary drinks, but consumption still exceeds unsweetened juices – prompting calls for stricter advertising standards

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According to a study published Oct. 26 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, households with children ages 1 to 5 reduced their purchases of sugary fruit drinks by 27%, from 239 to 174 fluid ounces per month between 2006 and 2017 – reflecting a drastic drop in monthly advertising for products from nearly $ 6,000,000 in 2006 to less than $ 2,000,000 in 2017.

Yet, during the same period, sales of children’s flavored water containing added sugar and / or non-nutritive sweeteners increased by 68%, a disproportionate increase from the total TV advertising spend for the category, which remained relatively stable between 2007 and 2017, with a slight increase between 2013-2015, according to the study conducted by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

In both cases, sales of fruit drinks and flavored water for children continued to outpace those of unsweetened juices – sales of fruit drinks for children three times more than those of unsweetened juices, according to the study. .

[Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about what children are eating and drinking, and how emerging brands are shifting shopping patterns to healthier options? Register for FoodNavigator-USA’s upcoming virtual – and FREE – Food For Kids Summit​. Find all the details HERE​.]

The change shows that advertising dollars are directly correlated with beverage purchases by households, according to researchers who noted in 2018, companies spent $ 21 million on advertising for children’s fruit drinks and flavored water, which means that children aged 2 to 5 see twice as much television. advertisements for both sugary drinks and unsweetened juices.

The impact of advertising on the consumption of sugary drinks by children is even more acute among low-income households, according to the study, which found that low-income households appeared to be more responsive to advertising with increased purchases. at a higher rate than middle and upper households. -income families at the same level of television advertising.

Call to fill advertising gaps

Based on these results, the researchers are calling on the industry to further restrict the advertising of sugary drinks to young children.

They recognize that the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in 2020 banned the advertising of most drinks with added sugar directly to children under 12. But, they say it doesn’t go far enough because low-calorie drinks with added sugar up to 5 grams including flavored water and fruit drinks with non-nutritious sweeteners are still allowed.

“Experts are also calling for many other measures to fill the gaps in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative that continue to enable widespread marketing of sugary drinks to children, including children’s ages and infants. marketing techniques covered ‘note the researchers.

They are also urging the FDA to require disclosure of added sugar, non-nutritive sweeteners and percentage of juice on the front of the package to help consumers better understand the safety of children’s drinks.

Finally, researchers are calling for taxes on drinks with added sugar, arguing that higher prices would discourage purchases by households with young children.

[Editor’s note: Now you know what children are drinking – but what are they eating? Find out at our upcoming free virtual Food For Kids Summit​ when we take a deep dive into the children’s snack market. Learn more and register HERE​.]

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