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FOOD GIANTS PULL THE PLUG ON SUGARY-FOOD ADS FOR KIDS; Trix may be for kids, but its ads aren’t; Kids and sweet cereal have long been a profitable mix, but companies have agreed to ease up on pushing the sugary treats.(NEWS)
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) July 19, 2007 | McKinney, Matt Byline: Matt McKinney; Staff Writer Rolling her shopping cart through a Cub Foods in Minneapolis on Wednesday, grandmother Jean Kihlgren stopped in the cereal aisle to consider sugar. There’s too much of it, she said, and the cereal companies are to blame.
“What they’re doing is targeting the kids, and the kids whine to their folks until the folks give in just to shut `em up,” Kihlgren said.
Her sense of the marketing behind some processed foods may ring true for many parents, and it’s for those people that General Mills, Kraft and a host of other food companies are pledging to change.
The companies, at a forum hosted by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said Wednesday they would rein in some of their advertising aimed at children, a move that was praised by a consumer watchdog group that has sued food companies over the issue. The changes include limits on the use of licensed characters, promises to include more nutritional information on packages and a ban on the advertising of some products during certain television shows.
The pledges are a “great step forward” that will rid advertising of some of the “worst junk food marketing aimed at kids,” said Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group that previously took the companies to court. She urged other food companies, such as Burger King and ConAgra, to join the pledge, and said the industry should adopt a single nutritional standard to make it easier for consumers to understand what they’re buying. go to web site cinnamon toast crunch
What would change At Golden Valley-based General Mills, the changes include:
– No advertisements of any food to a child 11 years or younger that does not meet internal standards limiting calories, fat, sodium and trans fat.
– No ads targeted at children 11 years and younger for products, such as Trix cereal, that contain 13 or more grams of sugar per serving.
– The company will also include more nutritional information on the front of cereal boxes so customers will know what percent of the daily value each cereal has of calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and other important nutrients.
General Mills is “responding to consumer interests,” said company spokesman Tom Forsythe.
He said the company had already strengthened its nutritional guidelines in 2005. General Mills stopped advertising some products to children last year because of its new criteria, but Forsythe would not say which ads were dropped. The restrictions discussed Wednesday mean General Mills will not advertise some of its most sugary products on television shows where 35 percent or more of the audience is under 12 years of age. Not covered by the pledge are cereals with 12 grams of sugar per serving or less, including Cookie Crisp, Cocoa Puffs, Reese’s Puffs and Lucky Charms.
“Those are cereals that most health professionals wouldn’t consider to be the healthiest choices,” said Wootan.
The No. 1 selling cereal at General Mills, Cheerios, has 1 gram of sugar per serving.
The companies making the pledge, including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, were responsible for two-thirds of all food and beverage advertising aimed at children in 2004, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The food companies were brought to the pledge in part by threats of new legal action from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which had already sued Kraft and threatened to sue Kellogg Company. It stopped short of legal action when confronting General Mills, said Wootan.
“We found we were able to work with them without needing to involve the court,” she said.
The company had recently reformulated its children’s cereals to include whole grain, for example. It also agreed to limit the use of licensed characters on packages of products – not just in television ads – that do not meet the company’s nutrition standards. And General Mills and Kraft were also commended for not advertising in middle or high schools.
Still, it’s long been known that sugar makes the customer happy. The company launched three low-sugar versions of its cereals in 2004, including Trix, Cocoa Puffs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, each containing 75 percent less sugar than the originals. Two have since been pulled due to poor sales, with Cinnamon Toast Crunch the only one still available.
Food education Skye Holmberg has spent the summer trying to teach kids to make the healthy pick. The Augsburg College student has been on an internship at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis, talking to kids about cooking, food and nutrition.
She bought cereal at the supermarket on Wednesday as she prepared a lesson in choosing between a healthy cereal and a sweetened one. Getting kids to eat healthy, she’s found, is a tough assignment.
“They want the sugar,” she said. “They definitely want the sugar.” Matt McKinney – 612-673-7329 KIDS AGES 8 TO 12 SEE THE MOST FOOD ADS ON TV, AN AVERAGE OF 21 PER DAY, MORE THAN 7,600 A YEAR 50%: of ad time on TV shows designed for children under 12 is devoted to food 72%: of ads aimed at children or teens are for candy, snacks, sugary cereals or fast food 34%: of food ads aimed at children are for candy or snacks 28%: of food ads aimed at children are for cereal 10%: of food ads aimed at children are for fast food Source: Food for Thought: Television Advertising to Children in the U.S.; Kaiser Family Foundation March 2007 CHILDREN’S EXPOSURE TO FOOD ADS ON TV go to web site cinnamon toast crunch
Number of Number of Hours and food ads food ads minutes of seen per seen per food ads seen Age day year per year 2-7 12 4,427 29:31 8-12 21 7,609 50:48 13-17 17 6,098 40:50 72% of ads targeting children and teenagers are for food products 34% are for candy and snacks 28% are for cereal 10% are for fast food 32% of all ads seen by 2-7 year olds were for food 25% of all ads seen by 8-12 year olds were for food 22% of all ads seen by 13-17 year olds were for food TOO SWEET Several General Mills products would be affected by the new rules limiting advertising of sugar-laden foods to children.
Product Grams % weight of sugar from sugar Apple Cinnamon Cheerios 13 43% Peanut Butter Cookie Crisp 13 43 Trix 13 41 *Boo Berry 14 42 *Frankenberry 14 42 Chocolate Lucky Charms 14 50 *Fruit Shapes fruit snacks 14 56 Double Chocolate Cookie Crisp 15 48
* Not currently advertised.
Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest McKinney, Matt