Advertising of unhealthy food on the decline

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th September 2009

Advertising of snack foods and drinks by Australian companies has dropped by more than 50 per cent in Australia since 2005, according to new research from the World Federation of Advertisers.

The study highlighted that advertising of high fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) foods had fallen by $200 million across all media in Australia over the past four years. Last year, companies spent about $180m to advertise products compared with about $370m in 2005.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Kate Carnell, said the results highlighted that Australia’s food and grocery sector was taking seriously the health and obesity issue by reducing advertising of certain foods and drinks, especially to children.

The number of snack and drink commercials viewed on television by Australian children also fell by 35 per cent between 2005 to 2007, the study by media agency Mediaedge:cia showed.

“These results highlight that industry is helping to make a difference. It also shows the importance of an initiative by Australia’s food and grocery manufacturers who have committed not to advertise certain foods to children unless they are promoting healthy dietary choices consistent with scientific standards,” Ms Carnell said.

So far, 16 leading Australian food manufacturers have signed up to AFGC’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative, which came into effect on January 1 this year. Under the initiative, children will no longer be subjected to advertising for snacks, chips, soft drinks and chocolates on children’s television and other media, including posters in school canteens.

“It’s expected that this trend of reducing the amount of advertising of HFSS foods will continue into the future under the industry code,” Ms Carnell advised.

Last week, the Federal Government’s Preventative Health Taskforce report Australia: The Healthiest Country by 2020 outlined several recommendations for food and grocery manufacturers which included monitoring self-regulated measures such as the industry’s advertising to children initiative, to ensure exposure of children to HFSS advertising is reduced. The Taskforce also floated the idea of banning advertising of food deemed unhealthy up until 9pm on TV – with current industry self-regulation to be monitored prior to determining the need for new legislation.

“This initiative will be closely scrutinized and evaluated for its effectiveness and we welcome Government working with us to monitoring its success,” Ms Carnell concluded.