US food and beverage self-regulation appears to be working
The Council of Better Business Bureaus has released its first report on the progress that participants in BBB’s groundbreaking self-regulation program – the ‘Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative’ – have made in changing the children’s food and beverage advertising landscape.
BBB has assessed the participants’ compliance with their pledges regarding child-directed advertising of their food and beverage products and concluded that the participants met their pledge obligations and that the few minor compliance issues that occurred have been remedied.
The Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative was created in 2006 by BBB, with 10 major food and beverage companies, which accounted for more than two-thirds of children’s food and beverage television advertising expenditures in 2004, signing up. Of the now 14 program participants, four companies have pledged to not advertise their food and beverage products to children and the other nine have pledged to advertise only better-for-you products in advertising primarily directed to children under 12 (Nestlé has just joined and are yet to announce details of their commitment).
“The participants in the Initiative are to be commended for their leadership in taking proactive steps to address concerns about advertising directed to children under 12 and childhood obesity,” said Elaine Kolish, director of the Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative. “Through the implementation of their pledges, the companies’ advertising to the nation’s children has already undergone a substantial shift toward the promotion of better-for-you foods.”
The report focuses primarily on Campbell Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, the Hershey Company, Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Mars, Inc., and Unilever United States – the six participants that implemented their pledges between July and December 2007. The report concludes that these participants successfully implemented their pledges to either not advertise to children under 12 or only advertise products that meet specific better-for-you criteria.
The report is based on BBB monitoring of advertising and in-depth review of detailed compliance reports and documentation submitted by the participants. The report concludes that:
• The Coca-Cola Company, Hershey Company and Mars, Inc., fulfilled their pledges to not engage in any child-directed advertising in media covered by the Initiative.
• Kraft Foods Global, Inc. met its pledge to limit all child-directed advertising to better-for-you products under its Sensible Solution program.
• Campbell Soup Company and Unilever met their pledges to limit child-directed advertising to better-for-you foods. In a few instances, food products that did not meet their nutrition criteria appeared on their child-directed Web sites. Campbell Soup Company and Unilever immediately removed the products after being notified by BBB or upon their own discovery of the materials.
The report also includes an update on the notable progress made by six other participants of the Initiative during the July-December 2007 period: Burger King Corp., Cadbury Adams USA LLC, General Mills, Inc., Kellogg Company, McDonald’s USA, and PepsiCo. These participants are currently in the process of implementing their pledges and many have already taken steps to change or develop new product offerings, reformulate recipes, promote nutrition and healthy lifestyle messages, and adjust their child-directed advertising strategies.
BBB also announced that Nestlé USA has become the 14th participant in the Initiative, and its participation will add to the changes that are already occurring in children’s food and beverage advertising. BBB is currently working with the company on development of its pledge and anticipates announcing the details of the pledge within the next 90 days. “Nestlé USA is pleased to join the Council of Better Business Bureaus Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative,” reported Brad Alford, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA. “Nestlé is committed to responsible advertising to consumers, and we believe that companies like ours do play an important role in offering healthy dietary choices and lifestyles for children. We believe joining this initiative is important, and a positive move in continuing our journey to become a Nutrition, Health & Wellness company.”
“The Initiative is a dynamic program that is continually monitoring the latest research and developments in nutrition science so that we can ensure that participants base their better-for-you nutrition criteria on established scientific and/or government standards,” added Ms Kolish. “BBB and the Initiative participants will work together in the coming months to expand company participation, increase awareness of the Initiative among parents, as well as solicit informal feedback from advocacy groups and government agencies on how to improve on the success of the program.”
Under the program, BBB continuously monitors participant compliance and will release annual reports detailing its findings.
The full list of participating companies is: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Burger King, Cadbury, Mars, Kraft, Hershey Company, Kellogg, ConAgra, Nestlé, General Mills, Campbell Soup and Unilever.