The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently released its 2012 report entitled Cereal F.A.C.T.S. Three years after their original report on the state of advertising to children, researchers report “Limited progress in the nutrition quality and marketing of children’s cereals”.
The original report had some staggering figures:
Cereal products marketed to children contained 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, and 60% more sodium than products marketed to adults. Preschoolers, on average, were exposed to 635 cereal ads on TV in 2008, or 1.7 ads every day.
There were some changes in the years since, but not all were for the better.
- 13 of 16 cereals had improved their nutrition profiles, albeit slightly, by removing a gram of sugar, 10% of sodium, or by adding slightly more fiber.
- Some forms of advertising were reduced, for example gamevertising websites.
- TV advertising to preschoolers dropped by 8%.
- Advertising for specific brands, the worst nutritionally, increased by tens of percents: Froot Loops by 79%, Trix by 29%
- Media spend to promote child-targeted cereals increased by 34%.
- New, brand specific websites for kids emerged, for example HoneyDefender.com for guess which cereal…
Bottom line: In 2012, cereals advertised to children still contain 56% more sugar, 52% less fiber, and 50% more sodium compared with adult-targeted cereals. Cereal manufacturers have a golden egg that they will not easily let go of.
The researchers at Rudd conclude that the commitment by manufacturers leads much to be desired – “Cereals that contain one spoonful of sugar in every three spoons of cereal are not healthful products that children should regularly consume.” They urge the big 3 companies – Post, Kellogg’s, and General Mills to drastically cut advertising of kids cereals, and find ways to promote the consumption of the healthier products, currently not aimed at kids.
What to do at the supermarket:
Whether child or adult, look for cereals with 6 grams or less of sugar, and 3 grams or more of fiber. If your kids complain, add a teaspoon of honey yourself, at home.