FD Buyer: Feds Want to Change How You Market
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.
Make no mistake about it, the food industry is under attack. And it’s not just food makers that are at risk. Recent efforts to limit food marketing to children would have a far-reaching effect, extending well into grocery store aisles.
The federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Food Marketed to Children recently proposed a set of so-called “voluntary” industry guidelines meant to limit the marketing of food products to children ages 2-17. Based on a strict set of nutrition criteria, the proposed guidelines cover 20 categories of advertising, marketing and promotional activities that limit how food is marketed on television, online, in print and in stores, including point-of- purchase displays, advertising circulars and promotional sweepstakes.
Facing “voluntary” marketing restrictions, food makers will be forced to further reformulate their products at significant cost (if even possible). They’ll no longer be allowed to promote their products in any venue where children or adolescents could be present or watching, like a child accompanying a parent in a grocery store.
For food retailers, the proposal represents a significant stifling of their ability to communicate with shoppers through point-of-sale (POS) material, mailed circulars and in-store signage and audio promotions. Even seemingly innocuous communications with moms and dads about foods that could be eaten by kids will be subject to intense scrutiny.
For food makers and retailers alike, those refusing to abide by these “voluntary” guidelines could can expect to defend themselves against shareholder-sponsored resolutions, consumer advocacy boycotts, civil lawsuits and a constant barrage of public criticism from so-called public health and consumer advocacy groups.
IWG, without substantiation, asserts that advertising is a significant cause of childhood obesity, and that restricting food marketing to children would reduce childhood obesity rates. Never mind that obesity is a complex problem not directly attributable to, or caused by, any one factor.
Also lost on the IWG are efforts by the food industry to self-regulate. The Better Business Bureau’s five-year old Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative today includes 17 of the largest food and beverage makers in the United States. Each has committed that all advertising directed at children under age 12 will promote healthier dietary choices or better-for-you products.
Not only have food makers voluntarily committed to changing how they advertise, they’ve also strengthened the nutritional value of their products, making sweeping cuts to sodium, sugar and fat, while at the same time making greater use of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and all-natural ingredients in prepared foods. Despite these truly voluntary efforts by food makers, our industry’s critics constantly demand more.
At the end of the day — regardless of the lack of causal evidence between food marketing and obesity rates and the industry’s efforts to self-regulate — food producers and retailers have reason to be concerned about and actively contest the government’s efforts to dictate how frozen and refrigerated food makers and retailers communicate with consumers.
- Frozen & Dairy Buyer August Edition – FD Buyer
- Friends of Frozen Food – American Frozen Food Institute
Discussion Questions: To what degree does food advertising contribute to eating habits that lead to obesity in children? Have the major food and beverage makers adequately changed how they advertise to children?