Latino kids saw substantially more ads for unhealthy snack foods in the past five years, according to the new Snack FACTS study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
On Spanish-language TV, 89% of snack food ads pushed unhealthy food in 2014, up from 39% in 2010.
Spending to advertise healthier yogurts declined by 93%, while cookies, fruit snacks, and snack bars increased 30% and chips and crackers 551%.
Latino kids also were more likely to visit the most popular snack food company websites.
“Food companies must stop marketing practices that disproportionately target unhealthy snack foods to young people of color,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America!, a Latino childhood obesity prevention network funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The new Snack FACTS report, funded by RWJF, examined nutritional quality and advertising for 90 snack food brands offered by 43 companies from 2010 to 2014.
Overall, the report found U.S. children’s exposure to TV ads for unhealthy snack foods (cookies, chips, and fruit snacks) increased from 2010 to 2014, despite companies’ promises to market healthier products to children. On a positive note, ads for healthier foods (yogurt, fruit, and nuts) also rose.
Recommendations for change include:
- Improvements to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary industry self-regulatory program, will provide even greater benefits for children of color.
- Industry commitments to increase sales and marketing of healthier products should also address advertising in black- and Latino-targeted media.
- Media companies, especially those with large Latino audiences, should consider offering lower rates for advertising that promotes nutritious foods.
“It’s unacceptable that Latino preschoolers see dozens of unhealthy snack food ads on Spanish-language TV, and that’s not even counting what they see on English-language programming,” Ramirez said.