This post was written by Tanya Baytor, the O’Neill Institute LL.M. Program Director. Any questions or comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent study examined the availability of and the marketing techniques used for child-oriented snack foods sold in school kiosks and convenience stores near public schools in Guatemala. The study classified the majority of child-oriented snack foods as unhealthy and found that the most commonly used marketing technique was promotional characters such as cartoon characters, athletes or celebrities. Premium offers were found in 34% of the packages and were mostly collectible toys. These findings are consistent with those of child-oriented snack food packages found in supermarkets in the United States and Australia, where most have promotional characters and are classified as unhealthy. The study notes that promotional characters have been found to influence children’s eating habits as they are more likely to choose a snack with a character on the packaging compared to one without a character.
Although the researchers recognize that their findings are not without limitations, the study is significant because it is the first one to document unhealthy snack foods advertising strategies targeted to children in a low-middle income country. The study supports the need for further research to assess the impact that these marketing strategies have on unhealthy snack foods consumption. Finally it suggests the need to explore evidence-based policies restricting the use of promotional characters in unhealthy snack food packages as a contributing strategy to control the obesity epidemic.
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