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Prevention Institute

November 10, 2011

New study data on beverage marketing strengthens the case for sugar-sweetened beverage policies

Organizations and municipalities are increasingly working to address the pervasive presence of sugar-sweetened beverages through policy and practice change. But making the case for such efforts can be challenging, particularly when the dominant frame is that reducing soda consumption is an individual responsibility, not one that requires policy change.

A new Rudd Center study helps build the case for policy changes by highlighting the pervasiveness of sugar-sweetened beverages. Altogether, companies spent $948 million advertising sugary drinks last year, doubling children and teens' exposure since 2008. This study also sheds light on inequitable exposure to advertisements. Hispanic teens saw 99 percent more ads than white children. Black children and teens saw 80 to 90 percent more ads than white children, including twice as many for the 5-Hour Energy drink and Coca-Cola's vitamin water and Sprite. “Our children are being assaulted by these drinks that are high in sugar and low in nutrition," said Yale's Kelly Brownell, co-author of the report. "The companies are marketing them in highly aggressive ways."

The Rudd Center data is further evidence of the critical need for scientifically valid nutrition guidelines for foods marketed to children, like those originally proposed by the Interagency Working Group, and local and state policies that support child health.

Take action to support sugar-sweetened beverage policies in your community:

  1. Watch and share We’re Not Buying It, a campaign developed to stop junk food marketing to children, including the marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  2. Post a comment online in response to related coverage you’ve seen, or write a letter to the editor in support of policies that help to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.
  3. Write an op-ed or pitch a story to a local reporter highlighting findings from the new Rudd Center study and linking them to beverage policy efforts in your community.

Here some angles to cover in your online comments, letters to the editor, and op-eds:

  • We need policies that protect children and families, and that means stronger government oversight of food and beverage marketing.
    The current system puts the onus on parents to shield their kids. But when food and beverage marketers have access to children in schools, in stores, on television, and increasingly on the Internet, parents have the odds stacked against them. Limiting the reach of junk food marketing helps shift the balance in the right direction. After all, parents can't do it all alone.
  • We cannot afford to raise another ‘Pepsi Generation.’
    The beverage industry spends $948 million a year to target children, using highly trained psychologists and marketing experts to reach them, and these aggressive marketing tactics are paying off. In California, 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 and 41% of children ages 2-11 drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day: that’s a victory party at industry headquarters and a public health disaster for the rest of us.
  • Soda companies should pay their fair share for the negative consequences their products are having on our health.
    Research shows that in the last 30 years, the average American’s daily caloric intake has increased by nearly 300 calories, with 43% of those additional calories coming from soda. Increased caloric intake is contributing to chronic diseases that cost California more than $41 billion annually. Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverage companies have largely fueled this public health crisis, and it’s time for them to pay their fair share.
  • Industry needs to stop putting up barriers to health efforts.
    Sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing 22 percent of empty calories consumed by children and teens, and soda is the number one source of calories in teen diets. Food and beverage companies say they want to be part of the solution. If they care about the health of kids and families, and not just their bottom line, they will support science-based guidelines on marketing to kids, and they’ll let local communities decide what kinds of food and beverages should be available and marketed. For those companies who really do want to be part of the solution, it's time to walk the talk.

For more information about sugar-sweetened beverage marketing, read our Rapid Response Framing Brief: Sugar Water Gets a Facelift: What Marketing Does for Soda.

Did you pitch a story, submit an editorial, or get something in the news?
Send us a quick note so we can make sure your efforts are recognized.

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